Updated: Mar 25, 2020
In the wake of the current Covid19 crises, many churches have gone to streaming their worship experiences online (and that is a good thing – the church I pastor is doing this).
Also, there’s been an uptick in comments like “the church is not about the building anyway” (which is true) and “get out of the building and into the world” (which is a noble endeavor).
Also, in recent years there’s been a strong emphasis from many pastors as to building “online communities/churches”. They seek viewers from “around the world” to allow them to be their pastor and their church to be the viewer’s church – and of course, send them money.
With church attendance being at an all time low, especially in churches that actually preach the Scriptures, we need to pump the brakes on this downplaying of the actual physical and local church and Christians physical attendance to and participation in it.
1) It is true that Jesus said, “go into all the world and make disciples”. That means preaching the Gospel and discipling those who respond to it. It does not mean just staying at home and not going to church. Before the Gospel can be preached and disciples made, a physical and local body of believers must serve as ground-zero for such an endeavor.
2) The Greek word used to describe and define the church is ekklesia. This word is used 114 times in the New Testament. This is the word Jesus and the New Testament writers used to identify the church. Ekklesia means…
to be called out (indicating a believer’s differentiation from non-believers) and
to assemble together (indicating a believer’s responsibility to assemble together regularly with other believers).
There is no way you can make this word to mean anything less than a physical and local body of believers who meet regularly.
3) While the church is not a building...Scripture says that Christians are the Building of God...and, you guessed it, that Building meets in a building.
4) The book of Acts is about the establishment and growth of physical and local church gatherings where songs were sung, the Gospel was preached, worship was experienced, discipling was accomplished and fellowship was enjoyed – in a live group setting.
5) The Apostle Paul spent his ministerial life planting physical and local churches throughout Asia Minor and Rome. These churches continued to meet after Paul’s departure.
6) Of the 27 books in in the New Testament, 12 were written to physical and local (specific) church congregations. You might go so far as to say that another eight were written to congregations also … depending on how you view the recipient’s relation to his or her congregation. Even John addressed The Revelation to the seven (local, visible, physical) churches in Asia (Revelation 1:4).
7) Scripture teaches that the church is the visible body of Christ. While that visible body can be observed out in the streets – it is to also be observed in a physical and local way = regularly sequestered together in prayer, fellowship, worship, ministry, and study.
While “watching church” on TV or other devices appeals to our carnal laziness, a screen is no replacement for the physical and local church at a fixed geographical location that serves as the headquarters for the preaching of the Gospel, the training of disciples, the fellowshipping of believers, and the corporate worshiping of our Savior. Nor does it relieve believers from the biblical mandate of meeting together regularly (Hebrews 10:25).
Simply put, “online church” is an oxymoron. There is absolutely no replacement for the called-out people of God coming together and worshiping corporately.
Let’s just remember that right now, “online church” is a needed and necessary response to a temporary problem – let us not make it the norm after the temporary problem is resolved.