Is online church an adequate replacement for meeting in person? Spoiler alert: It’s not

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Relevant wrote an article last week where they interviewed Judah and Chelsea Smith about online church. In 2018, the Smith’s launched Churchome, as an online form of church which Relevant describes as “a new kind of virtual experience that would offer church to a new generation more comfortable with digital relationships.”

From the article:

The announcement was met with no small degree of skepticism at the time but that was then. Now Churchome’s style of Sunday service has become the norm for almost every church in the country.

-Relevant magazine

This article misses the obvious. Online services have become the norm for almost every church in the country…for now.

It’s become the norm, grudgingly. It’s become the norm because of the outbreak. It’s become the norm because many states aren’t allowing churches to meet. It hasn’t become the norm because hundreds of thousands of churches simultaneously decided that online church is better.

It isn’t.

It hasn’t become the norm because churches are suddenly jumping on the bandwagon and think it’s better.

The church meeting together and having fellowship together is better. People using the gifts God has given them to build up and serve their church is better (1 Cor. 12). A pastor who has a relationship with his people is better. A church where there is accountability from people who know each other and know their struggles, their past, their victories, is better. Partaking of communion together as a church is better. Elders tending to the spiritual welfare of people they actually know is better. Having a church that has a presence in a community is better.

In every way, meeting together for church is superior to meeting online for church. Yes, it’s a blessing that over these last few weeks, churches have had the capability to broadcast online. But there’s no substitute for the real thing.

Just because more things are done online in our culture, and we’re more technologically connected does not mean that this is the route churches should go.

For instance, with fellowship, there is no substitute for actual human interaction. Sure, I’ve made friends online. I met my wife on eHarmony! But when you’re celebrating Christmas, if a family member is away and all you have is facetime, it’s not the same as having them with you. If a friend or relative has moved far away, yes, it’s nice you can Skype with them, but it’s still not the same as seeing them.

Our society relies more on online interactions and our society is also increasingly miserable. Depression, loneliness, anxiety pervade the culture. The idea of online church panders to the culture while giving the culture while giving them something which is an unbiblical facade for church.

From the Relevant article, Judah Smith says: “we believe that actually people can connect on a level, that frankly could very well be deeper and richer and fuller.” I don’t see much evidence to back that claim up and there’s lot of research that says just the opposite.

I like social media and the internet as much as the next guy. All I’m saying is that it’s not an effective replacement for authentic relationships, and it’s certainly not a replacement for church.

Humanity was created for relationship. We’re created for fellowship with God and with other people. Just because more business, commerce, and entertainment has moved to the internet, that does not mean the church should follow suit.

Christianity is counter-cultural.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to subscribe!