The church is always on the move. Right now we are in the midst of a movement of ‘virtual churches’—arising at quick speeds. Church has been pictured as this building full of people who attend one day of the week. In reality, it has nothing to do with the building and everything to do with the people. The church is where people flood to and unfortunately is also flee to escape from. Virtual can be a tool, but can also be a means of isolation; it depends on one’s reason for going virtual.
As a member and part of the Body of Christ, I value church as a whole and the significance of fellowship. In the last 10 years, I’ve been in and out of several physical buildings where churches have gathered for a variety of reasons—part of my testimony. I’ve witnessed churches go through pastoral changes, congregations going their separate ways, and new churches beginning from the ground up. I’ve learned that no matter what church I find myself engaging with on Sunday mornings or throughout my days, the people around me are parts of the Body of Christ. The church is not the building we physically worship in, but it’s the people who make up the church who have a purpose.
I struggle with this concept of a ‘virtual church’. The reason behind why one would choose virtual over physically being present depends on their reasoning. I totally respect and sympathize with some reasonings: like medical circumstances, old age, etc. The virtual church is being used to reach unbelievers. It’s a gateway for the church underground for those who don’t have the freedom to worship. It’s used as encouragement for the persecuted. It’s convenient for workers who serve our country—firemen, police, the medical field, armed forces, the list can go on. I just wanted to be clear that I’m not completely against a virtual church.
With that clarification, I believe there’s no excuse, as Christians in America, to use a virtual church as a replacement for our own selfish desires. Those who are choosing virtual over physically being present are separating themselves from fellowship with the church. Many are sitting in the comfort of homes with a screen in front of their eyes—2 keywords: comfort and selfish. Nothing about this life as a Christian is about us or being comfortable. God has gifted us with each other to encourage, pray, grow, and work for the kingdom of God. As Christians, each of us has been called to ministry and gifted with talents to be of service.
By being virtual, no one knows you, your story, or engages with you. We need to find fellowship in a small group or Sunday morning worship; whatever God lays on your heart.Yes, I think as the church, the internet, and social media is a tool we can use to connect and grab people’s attention, but for how long is this sufficient? I think many are using a virtual church as a crutch for their Christianity, but also we as the church can depend too heavenly on virtual. As the church, we need to get up out of our pews and go reach out to this broken, hurt world. People are longing for hope; the hope that fills our souls—they need it too.
Fellowship with other believers is so crucial in our daily walks with Christ. It allows for an individual to feel valued, friendship, support, community, communion, the list goes on. I know with a topic like this many who talk or preach on the topic of ‘The Body of Christ’ reference 1 Corinthians 12 starting in verse 12. The passage is titled ‘Unity and Diversity in the Body’. To sum it up: it talks about how together we are one with Christ and individually we are made of many parts. If one part suffers, the others suffer too—made for no division. If it’s because of medical reasons, are we visiting in them in their homes? If it’s because of the underground church, are we providing prayer, money, and whatever they need to grow in their walk with Christ? The list can go on. If people are choosing virtual over physically being present (depending on reasoning), it’s choosing to survive without the body of Christ.
As far as churches go, I hope we aren’t going virtual for ratings. As the body, we can’t depend on the internet or social media. We need to take action starting and ending with trusting in God in prayer. Ultimately, time and time again it can come down to selfishness (depending on the reasoning). We think we can and we try to fit God into our own lifestyles—what works for us. In reality, it’s rebellion and we want to be alone. To be alone seemed impossible nowadays, so we turn to social media for connection. It’s a cycle that doesn’t break until we ultimately just surrender and want God.
“The church becomes irrelevant when it becomes purely a human creation. We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives and churches can be explained apart from the world and presence of the Spirit of God.” -Francis Chan