By Shane Rice – September 23, 2020.
We are living in a very strange day with what has been called a ‘global pandemic’. Many people are staying at home out of an abundance of caution and concern for their health. My intention is not to coerce people out of their homes who are not going to work or to the store in an effort to protect their health. This was written for those who out of convenience and comfort would rather stay home and watch church online rather than come to church. It is convenient, and comfortable to watch church at home. However, you are seriously short-changing your own spiritual life by doing so. Serving and worshiping the Lord has never been about convenience.
God requires assembly
Heb. 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
There are many other verses which clearly demonstrate people coming together for worship. Watching a service online is not the same as “assembling” ourselves together. There is great value in getting together with other believers. Seeing others who are assembling is an encouragement. You may not realize it, but when others see you, it comforts and encourages them. In that sense, watching online doesn’t encourage anyone else. Almost NO ONE knows you watched a service online. Even those who publish the service do not know you watched, unless you specifically inform them.
When you get dressed up and walk to your car carrying your Bible… you are being a testimony! This may not seem like much, but when I see people dressed up on Sunday, I assume they went to church. Perhaps others may not think that, but any contact with neighbors can let them know you go to church. They see you every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday leave your house at the same time, dressed up. They see your faithfulness and you are a testimony to them. If you stay at home and watch online, that testimony is hidden. We do not need undercover Christians today. We need unashamed Christians, those who are willing to be a living testimony for God. (Romans 12:1-2)
Worship in Song
Corporate worship has been going on since the beginning of time. We read in the Old Testament how Israel assembled together, sang, and worshiped God TOGETHER. Music is a very important part of the worship service. There is great power in good godly music that will stir the heart and prepare a person for the preaching. If you watch the entire ‘worship’ service online, do you sing at home? Or do you become a consumer who merely watches a service instead of participating in a service? While in quarantine my family did strive to sing the songs for the online service. It was not the same as being in church with other believers. Praising the Lord together brings a spirit of unity with others. There is nothing like getting together with other people, everyone singing together. It is enjoyable to sing with other people. It brings a joy that cannot be replaced or replicated by singing alone.
While occasionally there are distractions at church, there are more distractions at home. When you take the time to prepare yourself (clean up, dress up, and show up at church) you have actually done more than just arrive at church. When you drag yourself out to the living room, or dining room, and watch church on your tablet, phone or TV, almost no preparation has been done. Or perhaps you watch it lying in bed, on your phone, and don’t even get up. PJ’s and home are so comfortable that staying awake for the service may also be the problem! I have seen my fair share of sleepers in church. It will certainly be worse when no one is around at home. You are cozily settled into your favorite recliner, simply watching the service and you start to drift off. There can be notifications popping up on your phone or tablet. The phone may ring and disrupt your service. Your pet may interfere (need out, in, or attention). Your doorbell may ring. When you leave home, you leave most of these distractions behind. You actually prepare yourself mentally in ways that you may not have realized.
Bear ye one another’s burdens… (Gal 6:2)
Opportunity pops up rather unexpectedly. During the preaching, God may touch someone’s heart in a very special way. Sometimes it is so powerful that tears may well up in the eyes, and that person may find comfort praying with a friend. Being there for others and praying for them in such a sensitive time is without a doubt a spiritual work that is done while assembled at church. While watching online at home you are completely forfeiting that opportunity. The separation doesn’t allow us to bear one another’s burdens as commanded in Scripture.
An altar call, or time of invitation as we may call it, is a great time for people to speak with God. Why do we do that? It should be a normal thing, when the Word of God is preached the Spirit of God touches hearts. People should be moved to respond to God’s stirring in their heart. Stepping out and going to the altar is a great opportunity to publicly get on your knees and converse with God. This may be difficult to do at home for many reasons. For one thing, there isn’t an altar at home. No one is there to meet you at the altar and pray with you. The preacher cannot see you. He will not know that God is dealing with your heart. He cannot encourage you to spend time in prayer like he could if you were at church. The altar is not just a place for the repentant sinner to trust Jesus as his personal Saviour but always has been for the believer to do business with God.
Bringing an offering to a worship service has been part of worship since the beginning of time. Yes, we have made it possible to give online. Yes, you can mail your offering to the church. Yes, you can drop your offering off at the church offices during the week. Did you realize that giving is actually part of the worship service? When giving to God, it is a recognition of how God has blessed you. It is an act of worship to give back to God. Doing this at church is a normal part of worship. Does that mean that the other ways are wrong? Not necessarily. However, I personally believe that giving an offering at church during the time of worship is more fulfilling than just paying my bills online or mailing them in. In addition, there have been many times the offering plate passes by and God clearly speaks to my heart about giving something right then! Sometimes it is an act of faith to take your last $10 or $20 and give it to God. He always blesses.
God NEVER intended for man to be alone. Remember in the garden of Eden, God made woman because Adam was alone. We are social beings. You may be shy or quiet, but in reality, you need social interaction with people. Church is a necessary place to see people of like mind and faith! Honestly, most of the people you work with simply do not understand Christians. Even if you work with ‘Christians’, many times they simply do not hold to the same doctrines or beliefs. A church is a group of saved, baptized believers who have unified over the same doctrine. There is no one like the people that you go to church with. With time, you have grown closer together. The longer you are separated from your church family, the further you tend to drift apart. Take time to talk with your church family before and after church. You will find it very refreshing. If you already do this, you are well aware of the fact that you need that time of fellowship with other believers.