Last Sunday, our online attendance was nothing short of incredible. This was largely because President Trump tweeted that he planned to tune in to our Palm Sunday service.
Overall, we had 1.3 million people join us online for our worship service. 11,207 people indicated their desire to have a relationship with Christ! Many of our first-time visitors found us through the president’s tweet.
I answered a few questions from reporters about President Trump’s tweet and the unprecedented opportunities we’ve had at Harvest to reach people with the gospel. I’ve included my answers below:
Did the White House reach out to you about your services leading up to President Trump’s announcement on Twitter?
We were aware that it was a possibility, but we found out when everyone else did—when the president mentioned it in his press conference that he would be “Watching a webcast of a church in Riverside” and, of course, when he tweeted it.
Have you met the president before?
Yes. I had the privilege of being one of the many clergy that prayed for him in the Washington Cathedral after he was inaugurated as our president. I have seen him a few times since then, in various meetings at the White House.
Has he tuned in or attended your services before?
Not to my knowledge.
Additional, general thoughts on the president tuning in?
We are honored that the President of the United States will be watching our service!
I think he is providing a wonderful example of the importance of the church in America. All are welcome to join us as well.
What is the relationship like between your church and the president, as well as other elected officials (federal, state, and local)?
We respect, pray for, and support our elected officials. One day, I sent out a tweet supporting the president and his handling of COVID-19 as well as Governor Gavin Newsom. This is not a time for partisan bickering, but rather a time for us as Americans to work together to fight this virus and get back to whatever our new version of “normal’” will be.
Have you heard any confirmation that the president tuned in?
Not specifically. We just saw that the president retweeted his original tweet that he would be watching.
Why is your message so important in a time like this?
My message is that there is a God in Heaven who cares about us. That we can find hope in dark in difficult times with a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. I wrote an article where I asked the question, “Is the coronavirus bringing about a national spiritual awakening?” I think the answer may be yes.
I can tell that not only is our audience up, but there have also been many people saying they need and want God in their life.
One person wrote to us the following:
Thank you, Pastor Greg. I have been an atheist for 15 years and lately I’ve been questioning everything. I saw on FB that the president said he was tuning into Greg Laurie so I decided to tune in and right when Greg said, “Someone is watching who is scared of death and doesn’t know if they’re right with God.” I started to cry. I accepted Jesus into my heart. Thank you.
And did the president’s words give a boost to the audience of your “Spring Cleaning” message? I noticed someone from as far away as Thailand chiming in on chat.
Yes. We had a dramatic boost in our audience with many first-time visitors from around the nation and the world, including, Russia, China, South Africa, India, Australia, The United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Nigeria, France and many more. I can tell you this—a tweet from the President of the United States makes a huge difference and we are more than grateful for it.
What are your thoughts on the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the faith community, especially as we head toward Easter?
We are all very concerned.
We as a church want to do everything we can to help people both physically and spiritually. We have a COVID-19 testing center set up at our Riverside campus of our church that is being run by the city. We are also distributing food and other necessities to those who are in need. We are also doing our Sunday morning webcast of our service that we call Harvest at Home that is being viewed by a lot of people. We are here as a church to offer hope, prayer, and perspective to people who are seeking it.
Most of all, we want to bring Jesus to people because He loves us all.
When the president said he hoped to open things back in time for Easter Sunday, what was your reaction? Were you hopeful?
It was a hopeful statement, that helps us see that there is truly light at the end of this tunnel called COVID-19.
But we also made preparations for our online service. The fact is, this has been an unprecedented opportunity for our church to reach many people we were not reaching before.
We have people watching from every state and from over 85 different countries. So despite this horrible pandemic, we have been able to offer hope and a worship service to those who cannot attend their churches right now.
There has been a fair share of criticism toward the president, largely from politicians, healthcare and public health experts. What are your thoughts on how the president has responded to the pandemic?
I think the president is doing the best job he can.
He is surrounding himself with experts like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, and he is taking their advice. I also think the vice president is doing all he can with his Task Force to bring this national pandemic to an end as quickly as possible. At the same the president is trying to get our economy back online, so this is a challenging problem, to say the least. Our president needs the wisdom of Solomon to handle this, and that is why we are praying for him, our governor, and other elected officials.
We are especially grateful for our medical professionals who are literally putting their lives on the line for us each and every day. My respect for them could not be greater.
There has also been a lot of conversations in the public regarding the role of faith and science in the fight against the pandemic. Some faith leaders have leaned toward faith as the solution, ignoring the science. Some have taken a more holistic approach. Where do you stand on this?
I don’t personally know any faith leaders that are ignoring the science that is really needed right now.
We are thankful for our scientists who are doing all they can to find a cure to this dreaded virus. But faith plays a very important role in all of this too.
They are not mutually exclusive. It’s not “either/or” but “both/and.”
Learn more about Pastor Greg Laurie.
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