What We Can’t Get from Online Church
Embrace the Benefits of Meeting Together
When we can’t attend church, to meet in person, and must experience a service online, does that count as going to church? The essential parts of the service are the same. There is music, a message, and a prayer or two. For these three key elements, the result is the same whether we experience them in person or remotely from a distance.
In addition, we may hear announcements, see a communion celebration, and even watch ushers take the collection. These last two elements are a bit harder for us to engage with online. Yet we can embrace them too. For communion we can experience the spiritual aspect of the rite without partaking in the physical elements. And for the offering, we can always give online or mail a check.
Yes, when we must attend church online much of the experience is the same as if we were there and able to meet in person. And we can make accommodations so that the physical separation doesn’t affect the overall outcome.
Yet some considerations remain that cannot happen in absentia.
Watching the service online removes all opportunity for interaction with others, aside from those sitting in the same room with us. This means we can’t wave to people, talk with friends, or offer a smile. To experience these exchanges requires being in the same physical space, not a virtual one that occurs online.
Beyond the basic interactions of talking with others or relating through nonverbal communication, we have a chance to enjoy a meaningful connection. This can occur when the socially acceptable question of “how are you?” goes beyond the rote response of “fine” to allow the space and time for the true answer to emerge. This significant sharing enables the opportunity for a deeper interaction that forms, or reinforces, a personal connection.
In some cases, this personal sharing of information might provide the opportunity to pray for someone or offer help in a tangible way. These things can’t take place when the online experience isolates viewers from each other.
Interaction is a great start and connection moves relationships forward, but the goal is forming community with one another. Again, worthwhile community is hard—though not impossible—to pursue and develop over the internet. In person, face-to-face contact strengthens community. This applies to physical community and sacred community. Both are important for our mental health and spiritual well-being.We should embrace the opportunity to spend time with one another. Click To Tweet
Meet in Person
Sometimes we cannot meet in person with other followers of Jesus. Yet whenever the occasion arises, we should embrace the opportunity to spend time with one another. This will allow for personal interaction, meaningful connection, and spiritual community to take place.
This may be why the writer of Hebrews reminds us to not give up meeting together. Instead we are to gather and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.