I sit here a bit saddened after the fifth Lord's Day without corporate worship. It saddens me that many church bodies have not been able to gather as we are called to do and worship God together. Yes, many are able to use technology to in some way worship, but let's be real, better yet, let's be biblical and realize this is not the worship Christians are called to do. This is not the body of Christ meeting to praise God and hear from Him. In that sense, there is no such thing as an online church.
I know some of you may be thinking, “But the church is not a building. We are the Church.” I get that. I know that. But the Church, or a church (ekklesia), is the gathering, congregation, or assembly. I don't see how it is possible to call an online meeting, whether a live feed or a prerecorded service, the gathered or assembled body of believers. Please do not misunderstand, I am very grateful we have live streams and YouTube. If this health crisis had happened in the 80's we would not even have that. Still, this is not a biblical Lord's Day service. The local church is not coming together.
If meeting online is a truly acceptable Lord's Day worship then after this crisis is over, and we can go back to the gathering, churches will have to allow online members to be part of the local church. They will have to allow anyone to be a member without ever stepping foot into a physical service. Members would then never partake in the Lord's supper, or worse, be allowed to take it at home on their own, perhaps using anything they want like orange juice and Oreos. I don't believe that is a proper administration of that sacrament.
Then there is this issue. How would an online member go through church discipline? I know many churches do not practice this anyway, but if they did, how do you discipline an online member who has fallen into sin? Would you even know they have? Do you cut off access to the live feed?
I know a few of these scenarios may seem extreme but we must really consider what is going on. I know many pastors and elders do not believe the service they are providing on the Lord's Day in this current time is a biblical church service. I believe they are being faithful to God in keeping His people worshipping in some capacity. It reminds me of Daniel's time in exile. He and all in exile with him could not worship in the temple as God commanded. However, Daniel and others were faithful. Daniel still prayed faithfully to the LORD while he longed to be back in Jerusalem. He longed to be worshipping God the way God called His people to worship Him. But Daniel was providentially hindered. Even when he was told he couldn't pray to any God besides the king he still did. He still prayed toward Jerusalem.
When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Daniel 6:10
Daniel even knew here his worship could cost him his life, but he prayed to God facing the place of worship. Currently worshipping in our homes won't get us killed but we like Daniel long to be home with the people of God worshipping together. May we long to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God and one another. May we long to partake in the Lord's Supper together. May we long to see baptisms. May we long to gather to encourage one another as we see the Day drawing near.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. John 4:21-23
I know the location of our worship does not matter. I know it does not have to be in a specific building or a specific mountain, city, or town. But I also know we are called to be together. The body of believers come together on the Lord's Day to worship the God who has saved us in Spirit and Truth.
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 1 Corinthians 14:6
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
After 5 Lord’s days of not physically gathering the longing continues to grow stronger. May we be faithful in our worship apart from the congregation but diligent in prayer to return to the assembly as we are called out to do. May God take the idols from our gathered worship and purify His Church so we can gather to worship and praise Him once again in the local church.