If you had told me a few years ago that our church would not be able to meet in person for nearly two years, I would have thought our church would not make it.
During the pandemic, technologies such as Zoom and YouTube were so helpful for churches to worship together and remain in fellowship with one another.
But now that the pandemic restrictions have lifted in most places, it is time to return to meeting in church in person.
Of course, it is much less convenient to wake up, get dressed, and drive in traffic on a Sunday morning to be physically present with our church family.
It is much easier to sleep in, roll over, and open our devices with our cameras off. But the little effort required to attend church in person is absolutely worth it.
I know that some people are not able to attend church physically. For them, the online church may remain their only option. But for the rest of us who are able to go to church in person, we should. Here are some reasons why.
We all know that when we are in an online meeting at home there are a million distractions, both on the device itself and around the house.
Of course, all distractions are not eliminated in a church gathering, but it is a fact that we can enjoy better focus on what is happening in the service when we are physically sitting in church.
God created us three-dimensionally, with bodies; not just as two-dimensional talking heads. With these bodies we meet, talk, sing, laugh, sit, stand, eat, drink, shake hands, listen, and everything else.
We were meant to experience and participate in church with our whole bodies. The church is not just a performance that we watch, as if we were watching a show on Netflix.
Relationships with One Another
You might be able to hear a Sunday message on Zoom or YouTube pretty simply. But the sermon is actually just one part of the church.
The biggest part of the church is the church itself. It is a community of people. Relationships are what make the church a family, the people of God.
Sociologists tell us that one of the things that made the pandemic so devastating for all of us was the loss of what they call our “weak relationships.”
God created us three-dimensionally, with bodies; not just as two-dimensional talking heads.
The vast majority of our relationships are these so-called “weak relationships,” including most of the people in our church communities.
They do not figure very significantly on our relational radar screens, because they are not made up of our closest family members and friends—our “strong relationships.”
But these “weak” relationships play an outsized role in keeping us emotionally healthy and grounded. They help in shaping who we are as people.
Without even realizing it, these little friendships and seemingly distant acquaintances—including all that small talk and short chit-chats—influence us in a huge way.
In this way, the pandemic was a good reminder of how much we need our fellow church members. We might not be best friends with all of them or even talk much with many of them.
But the fact that we are part of the same community means that we are all influencing one another constantly—mostly without even realising it. You cannot recreate this three-dimensional influence online.
Serving One Another
The Bible contains dozens of ‘one another’ commands—like love one another, encourage one another, accept one another, forgive one another, bear with one another, and so on.
Serving one another in these ways is essential to holiness. In other words, being holy does not just mean sitting at home and reading your Bible or not looking at pornography.
It means obeying God’s commands to love and serve one another, particularly in our church communities. To do this we need to be together, not at home by ourselves.
I hope this one is obvious. Adults might be able to sit at home and listen to a sermon, but how about our kids? There is a reason schools in India are back in-person now. They have not remained online or even gone hybrid.
If we want our kids to have any hope of knowing Jesus and surviving spiritually, then they need to be physically present in church with their parents and other families.
Long-term Spiritual Health
This summer, our three older kids and I went to Canada for three weeks. But my wife and youngest daughter Priya had to stay back in India because of delays in her adoption paperwork.
During this time apart, video calls were our lifeline to stay connected as a family. But we managed because we always knew that it was a temporary arrangement in light of the circumstances.
However, through this experience I was reminded that video calls are not the same as actually meeting, hugging, sitting around together, and talking face-to-face. It is not even close!
What is the church? The church is a people, a community, the body of Christ—an outpost of heaven on earth.
We certainly appreciate and make use of technology when we need it. But it is neither healthy nor wise to seek long-term relationships online.
In the same way, technology has been great for our churches, but it was always a stop-gap arrangement at best.
It is neither healthy nor wise for our life together as a church, to carry on like this longer than needed.
Being with our church families in person is good for our own souls, good for our kids, good for our church as a whole, and for the good for the spread of God’s kingdom in our city and country.
Fulfilling the Purpose of the Church
What is the church? The church is a people, a community, the body of Christ—an outpost of heaven on earth. It is where people from every ethnicity, personality type, age group, social status, and educational level—along with every other kind of diversity of background—come together to worship Jesus, encourage one another in their faith, and reach out to others. This is the church.
It is all of us, together. For the church to be the church, we need to be together. The best way to do this is to be one people, in one place, at one time. For these reasons and more, if at all possible, we should attend church physically.
We thank God for the technology that enabled our churches to stay connected during the pandemic. But now it is time for our churches to come together in person.