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'The Church will be permanently changed': Futurist speaks of impact of coronavirus pandemic on church growth

by Heather Preston

A Christian futurist says the coronavirus lockdown has forced the church into the third millennium and helped to expand its ministry like never before.

Many churches across the globe have taken their services online in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis as governments have introduced strict social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

Patrick Dixon, chairman of forecasting company Global Change Ltd, says those who have adapted their ministries and embraced technology will see long term growth as a result.

Speaking to Premier, he said: "As the church has been literally 'imprisoned', we have had to develop the tools to broadcast. It's very exciting what's happening. 

"58,000 churches streamed their services live in the UK last Sunday alone, there's so many people watching this stuff. All those Easter services that were broadcast 10 days ago, they're still online and in 20-30 years' time, people could still be watching that, in any nation of the world, it's a permanent change."

Christian conferences have also experienced an influx in audiences according to Dixon. Family festival Spring Harvest - which usually has some 40,000 attendees each year, has had over a million live views of its 2020 digital service. 

Dixon - author of Cyber Church - drew a comparison with the conditions under which the apostle Paul shared the gospel, suggesting his isolation had a significant part to play in his global influence.

"He was the most influential Christian who has ever lived. His ministry has impacted more people than any other Christian, but the only reason for this is because he was in prison. 

"Because he was locked away he starts to write and he became the world's first 'time warp' apostle, the first digital discipler - today, they're still being broadcast across the world in 100 million different ways every day," Dixon said.

He commented that millions of church leaders around the world have now woken up to the power of technology to reach people with their message.
"Locked up in solitary confinement, just as Paul was, they can still use email, the web, YouTube.

"It's almost as if the Lord needs to lock the church up in order to get it to move into the third millennium. We're now using these tools and it's extraordinary what's happening!" He said.

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