There is a festering problem in today’s North American Church that is cause for grave concern. What is even more troublesome is that it is not reserved exclusively to Millennials (those born roughly between 1980 and 2000). It is a festering issue that cuts across all generations. It is the problem of convenience
We live in the age and benefit from the fruits of a technological revolution that has no end in sight. With the advent of the internet, the world has not only grown smaller but life has become more convenient. Today, we can run a business, stream movies, play games, order dinner, change our thermostats, and pay our bills from a mobile device. These are major advancements that have removed many inhibitors of the past.
These technological advancements have also enhanced the scale and impact of ministry. We can now watch a church service live from anywhere in the world, pay our tithes and offerings through electronic giving, and share the gospel with others on social media platforms. But has church now become too convenient and, as a result, face the danger of ignoring the admonition of “not staying away from our worship meetings” (Heb. 10:25 HCSB)?
A 2014 Barna article entitled Americans Divided on the Importance of Church reveals that "One in five (22%) say they go to church because the Bible teaches fellowship with other believers. And in spite of a growing epidemic of loneliness, just one in 10 report going to church because they are looking for community." This suggests that the Church doesn't understand the importance of going to church.
The Church, after all, is the community of called-out ones. And while we may participate in online communities, there is still a need for us to greet each other, break bread together, fellowship together, and, dare I say, worship together. The Apostle Paul understood this, and despite communicating via letters by way of the sea, he always sought to visit in person the church’s he corresponded with.
There is something about worshiping the Lord together with the people of God and in the house of the Lord that is irreplaceable. King David emphasizes the joy of communal worship in Psalm 122:1, where he declares: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD” (KJV emphasis mine).
But we don’t need David to inform us of this truth, because we know that just as it is much better to be at the football game, concert, or play than to watch any of them on TV, it is much better to worship in the house of the Lord. There is an excitement and energy that is generated by being present with other people in the midst of the action. It is no different when it comes to worship. While God is omnipresent (present everywhere), He has designated the places where His people gather together to worship Him as sacred, holy, special.
I suspect that very few of us would choose to stay home and livestream the Bears, Beyoncé, or Hamilton, if we had tickets to the event. But with God, it has become about convenience: We had a long, hard week at work. We have a list of to-dos that we need to get done on Sunday. Or we don’t feel like driving to church. Pretty soon we find ourselves like a coal that have been removed from the fire–cold, disconnected, and isolated.
So how should we respond to the privileges afforded us by modern technology? We thank God for them and use them as a complement to our communal worship, but not as a replacement for it. In fact, the implication given by the author of Hebrews for not staying away from our worship meetings is because they serve as an opportunity for encouraging one another.
It is important to remember that we are a community of believers and, as a community, we belong together. For it is our “togetherness” that affords us the opportunity to partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20-33), administer church discipline (Matt. 18:20), and edify one another (1 Cor. 14:26).
We should make the most of the gift of technology and enjoy all the conveniences that it affords us, but we must never allow livestream to become mainstream for our worship.
Rev. Isaac Hayes is the president of Healing of the Soul Ministries. He is also the Assistant Pastor for Strategic Development and Stewardship at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, IL. You can follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram through his handle @RevIsaacHayes.