A Jonesboro church which plans to continue holding in-person services despite the global pandemic said Wednesday evening that the first death of COVID-19 actually happened 2,000 years ago.
Awaken Church Minister Chad Gonzales cited 2 Corinthians 5:21 in the graphic posted to the church Facebook page late Wednesday, which said “Jesus died with COVID-19 so that you didn’t have to bear it.”
The church has attracted some attention in the past several weeks by continuing services despite the spread of the coronavirus and advice from the government to avoid social gatherings of larger than ten. Although Governor Asa Hutchinson has made the suggestion an order, the governor said separation of church and state dictated that he exclude places of worship from the mandate.
Most area churches have heeded the advice and shut down gatherings at their buildings. Awaken Church said doing this would go against their “extremely strong convictions of the power of God to protect and the power of God to heal.”
For us to not have services due to a virus would be for us to go against our extremely strong convictions of the power of God to protect and the power of God to heal. Jesus knew the world He was sending us into contained sickness and disease. Instead of telling us to retreat from sickness, He told us to go into the world and to heal the sick. Why would Jesus tell us to do that in the midst of sickness? Because He believed that the God in us was bigger than the sickness around us. – Awaken Church said in a Facebook post
A representative of the church responded to inquiry from a reporter on Wednesday, confirming that in-person services would continue this weekend.
“Yes we are still having services; nothing has changed for us with the exception that we have implemented several safety measures over the last several weeks.
The majority of our people have been watching online but we do have the doors open for those who would like to be there in person.” – Awaken Church, via Facebook
While Awaken Church is continuing to leave their doors open, they’re also encouraging the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, or those with concerns to stay at home and watch the streaming services. It appears most of the church’s services are streamed online. In at least one video, Gonzales encourages his followers not to be afraid to get out in the world, despite the virus. He said, among other things, “we are the cure.”
Many of Gonzales’ lessons focus on healing. On his website, ChadGonzales.com, he offers Volume One of The Healing Academy for $89 – $35 digital. In one of the videos posted to his YouTube page, during “Healing School,” in Tennessee, a woman claims her short leg grew out. In another video, a man who was just released from jail the day prior (“long story,” he said) was “healed of scoliosis and short leg.”
Plans at Awaken Church are seemingly unshaped by news of an outbreak at a nearby church. Not far away in Cleburne County, at least 37 who attended a church event by First Assembly of God Church in Greers Ferry have tested positive for the coronavirus. One church member died. Despite their services being before a single confirmed case in Arkansas, the pastor’s post indicated grueling symptoms for at least three dozen who attended church events.