Virtual “church services” are not an adequate replacement of the church gathering…but then when you really think about it, it’s just a virtualized version of what we typically do on Sunday mornings in most churches.
Most of what takes place on a typical Sunday morning in most typical churches can be experienced nearly the same virtually from someone’s phone, laptop, or television from the comfort of their home, vehicle, beach, park, bed, or somewhere else as it would on Sunday mornings in a church building…except for one thing…face to face interaction with people (which, in my estimation, is important and would include the act of communion).
- Scripture reading
- Giving financially
The face-to-face interaction that happens in church usually occurs 10-15 minutes before and after service while everyone is shuffling their way to and from their seats. Real relationship building rarely happens in this atmosphere. Most churches acknowledge this and suggest that this is why they have “small groups” or “life groups” or “Sunday School”.
So, I might would argue that real face-to-face interaction isn’t really happening on Sunday’s. Perhaps at a very basic and limited level it is, but not to the extent that the Church ought to interact with one another in our gatherings.
Why then, are we surprised that a virtual duplication of what we do on on a typical Sunday (which we were already seeing a pretty large exodus from prior to COVID19) is seeing a similar exodus as well?
I’m not dismissing the gathering of the church. Far from it actually. The gathering of the Church body is immensely important. Commanded even. But much of what we do in our modern gatherings looks pretty different from what the early church gatherings looked like.
Nor am I saying that the things that take place on a Sunday morning aren’t important or valid. These things that do happen on a Sunday morning are important. Very important. And when we look at the early Church, much of these things were happening in their gatherings too. Just not so much the way they do now.
Unfortunately, something still doesn’t seem quite right with how we go about it.
What I am doing, however, is asking us to seriously evaluate what it is we are doing in our gatherings and why it seems that people are tired of it and walking away from it?
Perhaps it’s because we’ve boiled the church down to a handful of people doing everything while the remainder sit back and watch from the sidelines?
Perhaps it’s because these things weren’t meant to function the way that they currently do? Perhaps it’s not supposed to be just a single person (or a small team of people) running the show but instead much more involving of everyone present?
Perhaps people are longing for a deeper community that invites people into participate completely rather than simply “attending” some event where the only time you’re really invited to participate is either to sing or to give money?
Whatever the reason…it is clear that something must change.
COVID gave us a great opportunity to do just that, but in most cases we created a virtual version of Sunday and once we felt the coast was clear we headed right back to what we were doing.
I realize it is an uncomfortable thought to think that what we’ve be doing for so long may not be what we were designed for. It is hard to change. It is hard to look at our works and determine if they are worthy of our calling as God’s children.
We must take a long, deep, hard look at ourselves and ask the hard questions.
We may not like what we see, but we don’t have to accept it and continue to live with it. We could change things for the better for our children, and our grandchildren, and many more generations to come.
Movements don’t get started unless someone makes a move.
Seems rather like a duh statement, but it’s true. We long for something different, but no one wants to take the first step to make the change. We sit back and hope that someone else will do it for us, then we MIGHT come behind them if the way doesn’t seem too difficult.
But a movement is needed in the Church away from the stale and stagnant thing we’ve become and toward the life giving and vibrant entity that God envisions for his Bride (the Church).
Even if it just starts with you or me.