“He created the church to meet your five deepest needs: a purpose to live for, people to live with, principles to live by, a profession to live out, and power to live on. There is no other place on earth where you can find all five of these benefits in one place.” – Rick Warren
A few years ago pastors all across the country found themselves in a role they could not imagine anytime before…that of TV preachers. For months they taught to empty sanctuaries as they live-streamed sermons as Covid-19 ravaged the country. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, online worship services were an upcoming but still novel concept for many churches. In the two years since, however, churches have adapted and reached new people with the adoption of digital streaming.
There is no question that online worship and study are convenient for the homebound — as well as for those traveling or for anyone who can’t or won’t make it to the physical church building, but there is still another benefit. The online services reach a lot of people who aren’t ready to come to church. They can kick the tires of the Christian faith in the safety of their own home until they are ready for the next step.
The reality is that the church is reaching millions outside the building, through all types of online content. With that statistic as a background, we have to ask ourselves a question: “are internet services as good as a church?” The answer to that question is an unequivocal “no.” But that doesn’t mean you have to have one or the other mentality: Bible apps, podcasts, streaming content, worship online, and more — all are available to those who want these tools. You can always do a hybrid model, meaning you can do some things as well as attend in person.
The early church would get together weekly to worship God and at times even daily. They would also share community together in each other’s homes. Paul and the other Apostle’s letters were actually sent to these church communities that gathered in various cities to be read aloud together. Church means getting together with other believers to worship Jesus Christ, hear the Scriptures together, and encourage one another in the faith.
There is something powerful and unique when the church gathers. During the time we could not meet as a body, we learned how important it is to do life together with other believers on a regular basis. I don’t think we fully appreciate how much we benefitted from being in church every week until it was missing. In the same vein, we took for granted the opportunity to meet in small groups each week. We are made for relationships. We need each other and we need God. It’s easy to miss out on the close community when we are doing online only.
Do not reduce the church to listening to a podcast. It’s so much more than that. It’s community. It’s worshiping with others, praying for others, hurting with others, serving others, and being involved in the lives of others.