FOR ALL THE ways technology has truly been a godsend for churches during quarantine, I can’t help wondering whether it hasn’t also had one subtle negative impact—reinforcing our consumer approach to weekly worship.
For every person who’s chomping at the bit to get to be in church on Sunday morning again, I suspect there’s several others who are happy to stay home and flop on the sofa in their sweats. After all, you don’t have to brush your teeth and your hair, get dressed, wrangle the kids, find a parking spot, and make small-talk with people you don’t really know (or don’t really like).
One meme I saw this past week summed up things pretty well:
Pastor: I’m going to 26 meetings a week to figure out how to have in-person church.
People: We’re watching church on the couch, wearing pajamas and drinking coffee, and we can mute you. We’re good.
But church attendance isn’t first and foremost about our convenience. Hebrews 13:15 exhorts us to offer “the sacrifice of praise to God.” In other words, our devotion is supposed to cost us something. For most of us in the West, that’s just a little bit of time and effort. In other parts of the world, Christians risk their very lives to be with each other.
Nor is church attendance just about what we get out of it. We aren’t supposed to go simply to receive, but to give. In his teaching on church order, Paul says, “Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation” (1 Cor. 14:26).
Going with that sort of expectation requires a heightened level of commitment, kind of like going to class knowing that the teacher might call on you at any moment.
And then there’s the fact that something special happens when people are in close proximity, even when socially distanced. Being at a concert or a big game with others is a whole other level of experience, compared to watching online. How much more so when God’s there?
Yes, He meets us alone in our inner room (Matt. 6:6), but He is present in a unique way when we are gathered in His name (Acts 2:1-4). That alone should be enough to make us want to be there, not feel we have to be present.
I’m reminded of a friend who each Sunday gave his small kids balloons to carry on their way to church because he wanted them to feel like they were going to a party. As David wrote, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).
Virtual church is better than nothing, but it’s very me-centered, very corona nation. Real church is others- and Other-centered, more coronation.
Photo on Foter.com