Technology can be a great blessing. Technology can also be misused. For example, the internet has made communicating far easier but it has also communicated misinformation.
Technology proved a special blessing during the peak of the COVID pandemic. Without online worship services, people in a church family would have been quite isolated from each other. Online services nourished God’s people and kept them more connected.
Now the pandemic has eased. It seems timely to reflect on the proper place of online worship in the life of the church. How should God’s people employ this technology?
For starters, participating online is better than having no access to worship services. It is a blessing that allows those who are homebound or unable to attend for good reasons to share in the worship of God. It allows people who are homebound or have health concerns to stay connected and spiritually nourished. People on business trips or vacations can take in their church’s worship service from afar. And seekers in a church’s community might catch services online, sparking interest to come in person.
Still, worship in person remains the ideal. Hebrews 10:24-25 states, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.”
Why does the writer of Hebrews give this exhortation? Why is meeting together so important?
First, along with worship of God, a service includes a horizontal dimension: the communion of saints. Remote worship lacks interaction between brothers and sisters in a church family. Christian fellowship is powerful. It builds us up in Christ.
Second, gathering in person provides a setting in which to serve one another. It’s a time to use gifts to enrich the worship gathering, whether as a greeter, technician, musician, Scripture reader, teacher, or something else. At home, people can only spectate.
Third, worship in person is more compelling. Online, the sights and sounds are limited. In-person worship is multisensory and full scale: hearing the sound of singing all around, experiencing the whole worship space, and seeing a preacher present and life-sized.
God calls his people to gather for worship. Remote services should not be a substitute if one is able to come and worship in person. In a world of many virtual connections, Christian fellowship is more vital than ever and essential for the church to have a vibrant future.