I recently heard someone describe that they like doing video church. “I don’t see a big difference between Sunday morning gatherings and doing church online,” they said.
I beg to differ.
God’s Great Plan for Local Churches
The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians:
“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”(Ephesians 3:8–10 ESV; emphasis added)
A part of God’s marvelous plan is to display His wisdom through local churches. A church is “a gathering” or “assembly” of believers. It’s a group of Christians getting together in one place at one time to worship one God. While technology is useful, it’s just not the same thing as gathering together with believers on a Sunday morning.
This is What I Miss
Right now, more than any other time in my life, I feel the essential nature of a local church gathering. Let me tell you what I miss about my church.
I miss hearing believers’ voices singing praise and lament to God.
I sit in the 4th row of our sanctuary, closer to the front. I do that intentionally because our church loves to sing loudly. I sing my heart out because I want to worship God with all of my being. But many Sundays I come to church weary and looking for hope.
I miss the chorus of voices that surround me and lift my heart to God. If I close my eyes, I can imagine standing in the middle of thousands of believers praising God for all of eternity. Sunday mornings are a taste of glory for me, and I miss savoring that taste.
I miss sitting under the preached word of God.
Like my family, you probably have been listening to online sermons on Sunday mornings to fill in the gaps. While an online sermon is helpful, it’s just not the same thing as sitting in the sanctuary, surrounded by other believers, and hearing the preached word. I miss being in the presence of the preacher. I miss seeing our pastor’s eyes well up with tears as he explains the vital nature of the gospel and its necessity for our survival. I miss hearing the voice of a shepherd who has been entrusted to deliver truth to us every Sunday. I miss my pastor’s smile, hand gestures, tone of voice, and heart-searching application.
I miss the presence of God’s people.
I miss being around Christians. For where two or three are gathered there Jesus is also. I miss pats on the back, handshakes, and hugs from others. I miss the strength that a congregation provides. I miss the reminders that we’re co-laboring together towards heaven.
I miss the weekly rhythm of being with God’s people.
God is our creator, and He knows us so well that He established a weekly check in. We come together on Sunday mornings because we need to be reset spiritually, so we can go out and face the world in the coming week. God knew we needed to gather weekly for the sake of our spiritual survival.
There is more I miss. I miss the public prayers, the cupcakes, coffee and conversation after Sunday morning services, the updates from friends that I haven’t seen all week.
Please don’t tell me that an online church is the same thing as a local church. It’s not. And it never will be.
Questions for Reflection
- What do you miss about your church?
- What does the lack of public church gatherings tell you about the essential nature of churches?
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I do miss all the things you mentioned…especially my pastors! However, I have found blessings that weren’t available before, like getting to hear my son preach weekly at his church, as well as a cousin in KY, a nephew in ME, etc. I’m hoping that having been “forced” into the logistics of doing on- line services, that our smaller churches will try to continue this gift to people who have to miss, or have been told to quarantine during this time.
To be honest, I haven’t minded at all the ability to dress very casual, or even to stay in my p.j.s for some of these services. Sunday mornings were not rushed in trying to get dinner in the crockpot, fussing over my hair or what to wear. From that viewpoint, Sundays have been stress-free!
I also feel like there were no distractions around me, which was also nice.
Music is one thing I really do miss too. I have to wonder how emotional it will be when we finally do get to sing together again! For most of the first songs that I sang at home with the on-line praise teams, I found that I often had to drop out as the words would profoundly touch my soul, and I couldn’t carry-on like we sometines do in a group setting, not thinking deeply about the words or the wonderful gift of joining our voices together in praise to our wonderful God!
As you mentioned, there are many reasons God ordained corporate worship, and I, for one, have realized for the first time in my life, how much I’d miss it if it were taken away!