We have all lived through a cultural revolution. Because of the internet and technology we no longer need to go to the “brick and mortar” places like banks, shopping centers, grocery stores, and video rental stores. We can do almost everything online and through streaming. Many of us work from home and no longer need to go to a physical office. This shift has also affected how we view time. We are no longer bound by what “time” we should go shopping, check our bank account or watch a movie. We can do most of these things any time we want. Most of us have acclimated to this new cultural shift and for the most part like it. What’s really driving this is our insatiable desire for “convenience.” We like things quick, easy, accessible.
This has spilled over into our spiritual life, namely going to church. The whole aspect of church is going to a brick and mortar building at a certain place and a certain time. This has become a struggle for many as it’s just not how we operate in our life anymore. Then comes the invention of the online church. Some churches were doing this pre-covid, such as our church, but most started it and continue to do it since covid.
I have several thoughts about this. First of all, the online church is here to stay. To say it was just temporary due to Covid is like saying Amazon is temporary. Just like we watch our movies on demand, now people can see the church service on demand. It’s more convenient to watch from our couch than get ready, especially with kids. Some work Sundays so with no streaming they would totally miss the service. Others can’t come due to health reasons. Some that miss can watch it and catch up with the sermon series.
Second, online church is the new front door to the church. Most people that come for the first time have already come for the first time via streaming, so they already know what to expect. And when they come, they already have a pretty good idea that they will like it. There are many advantages to the online church.
So then, let’s get to the question of, “Do I need to go to church?” The answer is, “Yes if at all possible.” So, what’s wrong, if anything, with just watching it online? There is nothing wrong with it. It just doesn’t give you all you need as a follower of Christ. The church is not a building but a body of Christ. A body is meant to be together. A body is meant to be connected to each other. When we come to a church service and we are “together,” there is a life-giving fellowship that is shared and experienced. People that watch online and then come always say that it’s much better to be here in person. Does that mean you can’t get anything out of watching it online? No, you can, and people do, but it’s just not the same.
There’s an old saying, “If you can’t beat them join them.” I know it’s not realistic for everyone watching online to start coming to a physical building at a certain time any more than it is to ask people to quit using Amazon. So, here at WCC, we have created what we are calling “WCC Home Churches.” This is a way to experience church at home as if you were there. Here is the structure:
First, you invite your friends and family over at whatever day and time. Then you turn on the streaming and participate in, not just watch, the service. So, for example, when the singing starts, everyone stands and sings and worships together. Next, during the offering, everyone is encouraged to get their phone out and give via the WCC app. When the sermon begins, follow the message and take notes via the app. At the end you will have been given questions about the message to discuss. Afterward, hang out and fellowship together!
You might be thinking, “What about the kids?” We have an app that gives the kids’ lesson via streaming as well. You could have people take turns presenting the kids lesson. As you can see, you have just experienced “church” as if you were there.
I think the big take away is, don’t just watch it alone. It’s easy to become a spectator and not a participant. But it’s when we participate and engage that we experience God’s presence, hear God speak, and grow spiritually. So, if you primarily watch church online, how about signing up to become a Westmoore Home Church. You can e-mail my administrative assistant, Tanya Secrist, at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will send you the structure on how to do it.
Going to church can be in a building or in a home. The question you must ask yourself is, am I participating and experiencing worship, fellowship, small groups, and giving to the mission? Now we can do that in both places!