For most Americans, the word “revival” is part of our cultural iconography — complete with big tents and Billy Graham-style preaching.
But in an era when we are asked to stay home and to avoid physical contact with one another, when church buildings have been mandated to remain closed amid the national response to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s possible the next great awakening might not include large gatherings and altar calls.
Greg Laurie, who has been called “the next generation’s Billy Graham,” told Faithwire recently he predicts the next spiritual awakening “could happen on a screen.”
“We scratch our heads and we wonder how to reach your generation — the millennials, Generation Z — and sometimes people decry the fact that so many in your generation are glued to your phones, to your tablets,” said Laurie, founding pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. “But here’s the question I want to ask: Is it possible that the next spiritual awakening could happen on a screen?”
Laurie, known for hosting massive Harvest Crusades each year, pointed to data showing younger Americans prefer to communicate with one another via text message as opposed to actually talking to other people. Those skills have, of course, come in handy during the coronavirus pandemic, when our main way of communicating with friends and family has been through technology.
In fact, for the last month and a half, most churches across the country have transitioned to fully online services, streaming their Sunday morning sermons on YouTube and Facebook and conducting midweek small groups and Bible studies through Zoom and Skype sessions.
And Laurie revealed in a column he wrote last month for Newsweek that his church’s millennial viewership has increased by 235% since transitioning to exclusively online services. Now, more than one million people tune into Harvest’s livestream each week.
While nothing can replace the physical gathering of believers, as is mandated by Scripture, it is likely, Laurie explained, that revival could look different in the years to come.
“I, like any other pastor, am looking forward to when we can meet together in person again and worship together, because those are such incredible experiences we share,” he said. “But in the meantime, we’ve been forced to, well, close the doors of the church building. But the doors for the church as a whole have never been more open.”