“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near”. Hebrews 10:24-26
It was a Sunday morning and I was out on a ministry trip and before I stepped into the podium to preach at a church I had been invited to speak, I decided to call my kids at home to find out if they were on their way to the first church service. One of my daughters picked up the phone and said “ Hi Mom, how is the ministry trip”? I said it was ok and after finding out how their night was, I asked if they were getting ready to go to church and her response was simple: “Yes, we are. We are all in the family room waiting for the first service to start online.” I asked why they settled for the online worship versus going to church. She responded: “Honestly mom we have been talking about this among ourselves and we want to attend online church. That way we can do it in our pajamas and don’t need to brush our teeth or get in a car to drive. Plus we don’t have to worry about someone sitting next to us watching if we are going to give an offering when the offering basket is being passed around in case we decide to keep the offering you gave us for a movie.”
Well, this is not a conversation you want to have with your kids when you are just about to preach. So I told them to enjoy their service and that we would talk when I got back home. You and I know that most of our churches have closed down or have no people on Sundays because many believers have chosen to attend church online. There are many alternatives this days including YouTube church and so forth. Lots of believers really don’t have pastors over them, because they belong to an online church or ministry. You might not know this but even with the presence of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, WhatsApp and LinkedIn, a lot of research has indicated that online communities are becoming more and more lonesome. This is specifically so because nothing is more important than meeting one another, fellowshipping with each other, having family dinners and get-togethers.
Attending church once a week is not all about getting spiritually fed, encouraged, healed or delivered. It is not just about what you need to carry you through the week till the following Sunday. If this was true then tuning into online form of worship would be just fine. You could get what you need on Christian radio, reading books, studying the Bible or watching your favorite TV preacher. However, the purpose of church is so much broader than that. It is about corporate worship, praying and studying the Bible together, serving one another and reaching out in mission together. This can’t be done in isolation in your bedroom or living.
We need to get back to church. As followers of Jesus Christ, let us be reminded of gathering together as a family of believers; the body of Christ. There is so much in Scripture about the relational aspects of the church such as loving one another, being devoted to one another, encouraging one another, instructing one another, greeting one another, hugging one another and these can’t be done as well in a virtual (online) environment. You need a real person to shake hands with. You need a voice from someone you know to whisper words of comfort and say, God will see you through. You need that small bible study where you share your struggles and others respond with their stories of how they overcame similar situations. You need your pastors’ real time smile, not taped or streamlined.
Don’t think that I am old fashioned or fighting a generational gap. Online services are valuable and convenient. When you are not able to attend church for one reason or another, online worship is perfectly reasonable. It provides a bridge for those who are unable to attend church or the ones that are not yet ready to take a step into the community of faith but should never replace the traditional habit of gathering together. To say the least, your local church needs you more than you have ever thought. Your pastor and the other believers long for your presence in the church; you need church.
When you meet online it’s easy to forget basic obligations like sending in your tithe. Churches cannot go on without your tithe and offering. These churches are places of refuge, where you can walk in and talk to your pastor, unlike online churches whose preachers have no direct connection with their audience. If you have a favorite minister online, you give them an offering based on how their ministry has blessed you and you would like to help them continue blessing others. But the pastor that God has placed over you needs you more. He or she will show up beside your sick bed, online pastors will not.
Your pastor will call you to find out how you are doing, online pastors will send their customer service representatives to remind you that you have forgotten to send in your contribution or to tell you their pastor needs a jet. That is good too, your pastor might not have food or short of groceries but he or she spends time in prayer for you while the online pastor prays general prayers remembering those who serve him or her.
Online church messages can be so a addictive to a point that you loose your personal relationship with God. You will have little time for personal prayer, personal soul searching, personal time for reading the Word or reaching out to other sisters and brothers and finding out how they are doing. Online churches are good, but we all have to have strike a balance, do what is morally right, Godly and acceptable in the presence of God.
If you attend a virtual church and are disciplined to create time for networking with other believers during the week in a bible study or a prayer group, that should be enough to nourish you spiritually. If your church has developed an electronic giving method and you are able to submit your tithes and offerings online, that is good for you. Notwithstanding the advantages of online worship, the gathering of saints in consecrated places is more important today than any other time in the history of mankind.
Stay tuned and be blessed till next week. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, please remember to visit us at one of our monthly meetings.
This is Evangelist Isabella Nyakundi of vessel For Honor Ministries.