I can remember when I was a kid I would have to wear a dress and tights when I went to church. I was never a big fan of wearing those stupid tights. As I got older, I noticed that dressing up to attend church wasn’t such a big deal. I am glad for that because God doesn’t care what you wear to church. It’s not like you get brownie points for wearing heels and a fancy hat.
Churches have done a fantastic job of reaching the lost by adapting more to the norms of society. Jeans and t-shirts are more common than dresses and suits, smart phones with Bible apps have replaced bringing your paper Bible, and many churches have went even further as to broadcast services live by streaming them on the internet. As the technology age continues to grow, getting your weekly dose of church is simply a mouse click away. But should internet church replace attending a service in person?
I feel God doesn’t care where you get fed, as long as what you are eating is true doctrine preached from the Bible.
I worked at one of the largest churches, in my state, for five years. During those five years my church (Yes, I still attend.) has jumped by leaps and bounds to reach people across the world by using social networks, blogs, websites and live streaming to send out the gospel. And I am definitely one of those people, who from time-to-time, get my church service from watching on-line or listening to a podcast. There is nothing more relaxing then sitting in my PJ’s, with a warm cup of coffee, curled up on my couch watching a service in the comfort of my home. I wonder how God feels about the internet church? Does it mean I am a lazy christian? Would God love me more if I actually went to church every weekend? Is it wrong to watch another pastor preach instead of watching my own? Just like God doesn’t care how you dress for church, I feel God doesn’t care where you get fed, as long as what you are eating is true doctrine preached from the Bible.
Let’s be real here, life is tough. Our time gets away from us. And I will be the first to admit sometimes after a long, hard, demanding week, I don’t always feel up to getting around early on Sunday mornings and loading up for church. Heck, my church even has Saturday night services and when 5pm rolls around, there are times I just don’t want to leave the house. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love God and want to worship. On GlobalChristianCenter.com, I found some interesting information about on-line use and worship. When they interviewed people who they called, Religious Surfers, they discovered the top five things they use the internet for.
- Looking for information about their own faith.
- Looking for information about other faiths.
- Emailing a prayer request.
- Downloading christian music.
- Giving spiritual guidance via e-mail.
The study also showed that these “Religious Surfers” go on-line several times a week for spiritual material, but they are also some of the most active participants offline in their faith. This means they volunteered at their church and attended services regularly.
As Christ-followers, our relationship with God lines up in two ways.Vertical and horizontal.
So what exactly is the definition of the church? Well, what better place to find out is the Bible? The Bible refers to the church in different ways. Most of us refer to church as a brick and mortar place, but that is not the case. GotQuestions.org refers to the church as the following.
The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building. Romans 16:5 says “… greet the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church i n their house—not a church building, but a body of believers.
The church is not a building or a denomination. According to the Bible, the church is the body of Christ—all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Local churches are gatherings of members of the universal church. The local church is where the members of the universal church can fully apply the “body” principles of 1 Corinthians chapter 12: encouraging, teaching, and building one another up in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As Christ-followers, our relationship with God lines up in two ways. The first way is vertical. It consist of us and God. Second is horizontally. This is where we share, interact, educate, pray, encourage, support and love one another. And in our world today, these things can all be done on-line, but is that a good thing?
I am a social person. And I am not talking about social networking, which I do enjoy, I am talking about real human interaction. Looking into the eyes of others while they speak and share, laughing and even human contact by hand-shakes and hugs is something I find satisfying. We were made to enjoy the company and companionship of others. And since the church is a body of believers, I think attending a actual church service, in person, is vitally important for spiritual growth and fellowship. The Bible has many verses about attending church.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20
Instead of using on-line church as a replacement for the “physical” church, think of it more as a resourceful tool to grow your faith.
Attending church is important. Why? Well, because the Bible says so. But instead of using on-line church services as a replacement for the “physical” church, think of it more as a resourceful tool to grow your faith. The internet can be a wonderful place when needing spiritual guidance and encouragement. I mean where else can you connect with your pastor in a timely manner, than by sending an email? You can request prayer by updating your Facebook status. You can Google Bible verses on an issue you are having. And you can listen to a sermon on a topic you are struggling with. And you can do it all on the World Wide Web.
I do have to point out that even with all the good the internet provides, there is also a dark side. Just as God uses access of the internet to grow his Kingdom, Satan uses it the exact same way, to cause confusion and sin. When using the internet for spiritual growth and understanding, you have to be cautious of the source. You don’t want to fall into the trap of believing false doctrine. Here are a few tips on avoiding untrue teaching.
- Who wrote the article? Does it match up to what the Bible says?
- What is the purpose or reason for the site? Is it opinion? Is it true? Does it match up to what the Bible says?
- What is the author’s background?
- Is the information current?
- Trust your gut. If you feel something isn’t jiving, it’s probably a good sign that it doesn’t line up with what the Bible says.
Knowledge is definitely powerful when it comes to understanding God. But too much information can cause a mental overload. It’s like food, eat way too much, you’re stuffed. Don’t overwhelm yourself with content that you can’t digest it. Moderation is key.
The internet is a great tool for growing your faith. And churches that are willing to adapt to our culture and meet people where they are is a sure sign they taking steps in the right direction. On-line church services are a powerful way to reach people who would not normally attend church or just lost track of time and didn’t feel like going. They are also a successful way to see and experience other churches outside your city or state. I love my church, but I also enjoy listening to other pastor’s preach all over the country. Some might think it’s cheating on your congregation, I think it just another way to grow in my spiritual walk.
Think about this. One day when you are talking to future generations, and you mention the “good ol’ days” of a time when you wanted a religious experience you attended a church, they will look at you in shock that you actually left your home to do so.