The rise in popularity of the internet church is not surprising - much like working from home, it’s relaxing and convenient for everyone to be able to “attend” in our favorite pajamas with our coffee cup firmly in one hand and the remote in the other. When COVID burst on the scene in 2020 it had a profound effect on the church as we know it. Not only the attendance numbers, but on HOW we attend. Churches scrambled to establish a virtual presence on the internet through online apps such as Facebook and YouTube.
This was definitely a blessing for the time – virtual church and zoom meetings were certainly better than not attending or connecting at all. There seems to be no doubt that the method of how we attend Church has changed and will undoubtedly continue to evolve in the future. But do you ever question if internet church and zoom bible classes are the best answer for God’s Church? Do you wonder what God’s will is for fellowship and gatherings in His Church? Do you ever miss the time spent in the physical presence of your church family?
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42
Attending virtually when we are ill, or away, unable to gather with our congregation, is a wonderful. But is this what God intends for the future community of His Church? We are an interconnected people by our very nature, meant to unite with others emotionally, building strong loving bonds with one another. As we spend less and less time physically in one another’s presence, it becomes easier to lose focus on our church family and on the need we have for being in the presence of God and our church community.
Today many Christians are experiencing this drifting away first hand, beginning with missing church occasionally, then finding it easier and easier to let the daily life of the world take front and center. Eventually, all pretense is lost and they simply stop attending. Has this happened to you?
Without the regular gathering together in person, it’s possible no one notices this drift. I read once that showing up at church is a ministry all on its own. Through His Word and the work of the Holy Spirt, God is with us in a very special way when we gather in His presence.
“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:16
Singing together, praying together, feeling the connection with the pastor as he speaks the lesson creates a feeling of unity. It can be exceedingly difficult to feel that same connection doing those things virtually. We miss the opportunity to encourage others and to be encouraged. To talk and hug and laugh at the antics of the little children. To notice that one of our elderly members seems frail and may need more assistance. To engage with a young couple who may be struggling spiritually, a teen who is experiencing emotional issues – things one might not notice in a zoom meeting.
Reducing our church experience to merely a virtual experience in our life only enjoyed though the tv, social media or a podcast takes away our opportunity to encounter Christ in each other on a personal level.
Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart Eph 5:19 ESV
Reading 1 Corinthians 12:4-14 reminds us that God has given each of us the gift of a special talent – and those talents, each person in their own way, are needed to make up the body of Christ. These talents shine much better when we are all together in the presence of the Lord. Imagine the unity of sprit on the day of Pentecost. The exhilaration felt by the crowd at a great revival meeting when you can feel the presence of the Lord moving. The joyful connections we make at a fellowship meal after a great sermon or the animated discussions in a fascinating bible study class.
Now imagine if all this were happening over a zoom meeting. Half of the people have video blanked, someone’s audio is not working, and the internet just dropped.
Serving one another, the act of gathering, creates it’s own sense of community. God is present with us in a unique way when we gather as a church. He uses this time together to help build our faith and to help us grow in our relationship with our Him. As we meet less often in person, it becomes easier for those who are struggling, or new, or a little apathetic to simply start to wander away. In general, church attendance numbers – either virtual or in person – continues to drop. Internet church is an important tool in our life to be able to always have an opportunity to hear God’s Word. However, we need to carefully consider what God wants from us during these times, and how to truly meet the needs of our church and our community.
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25