By Bobby Price
One result of the covid lockdowns has been an increase in livestreaming/recording of worship services. In the past only large churches utilized these technologies to reach those unable to attend in person, but now thanks to covid and thanks to Facebook even small churches have established livestreaming their worship.
Is this a good thing? Yes but with a caveat. When a person finds themselves in a circumstance where they are unable to worship with the saints on Sunday, they can (and should) still worship on their own time. John gives us this example when he was exiled, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). (Most of) the elements of worship can be utilized without any externalities, including people, regardless of circumstance: singing to the Lord, praying to God, communion, meditating on God’s word, etc.
However, all churches across America have noticed a trend, some people are not coming back. Many people have gotten out of the habit to come to church. But there is a small percentage of those people who are not returning that are still tuning into the livestreamed worship. They find it comfortable to remain at home, sit in their pajamas, and worship along with the church behind a computer. This is not good. I am not referring to the people who are unable to attend worship in person–I am referring to the people who can attend in person but choose not to. Scripture clearly indicates we should assemble.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “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.” The concept of meeting together is commanded in the vein of stirring up one another to love and good works. Again, this is not about people who are sick or avoiding covid–this is about people who could attend, who feel comfortable in public, and still choose not to attend in person to our Christian Assembly. That is not okay–that is “neglecting to meet together.” If a person says that it is technically “meeting together,” then answer this, are you stirring up your brethren to love and good works? And are you encouraging your brethren? Our presence and our interaction with people on Sundays are important to God.
In our Assemblies, our singing is “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Eph. 5:19). How can you “address” others if you are sitting in your living room while your brethren are in the church building? Though you can hear them, your brethren can’t hear you when you are at home.
The Lord’s Supper is designed as a group-Church activity. When the Corinthians were taking Communion some ate their fill while others went hungry (11:21). They were told to stop focusing on themselves and instead to “wait for one another” (v. 33). The point is that Communion is not just between you and God–it is because the collective congregation and God.
There are other points I could make too, but the ultimate point I am making is this, if you can worship in person with your brethren, God wants you to do so. For those who are sick and avoiding illness, I have no doubt the Lord understands. But even to those people, hopefully they understand the importance of in person worship on the Lord’s Day because there is no good substitute. Thank God for livestreaming, but thank God even more so for the chance to worship with our brethren in person on the first day of the week.