Why Go to a Church Service When You Can Watch Online?

Five reasons why engaging with church in person is necessary.

“Why go to a church service when you can stay home and watch online?”

This was a great question posed to me recently by a good friend. He forced me to stop and think about what I believe. See if you agree or not.

1. The church needs you.

I’m not talking about the building or the organization. Rather, the people of God need what you can offer. Your physical presence, words of encouragement and acts of service—combined with what others bring—is what makes the people of God. When you “go to church” with missional eyes opened wide, you arrive early and stay late, you engage in conversations with other followers of Jesus, you look for people who need to be encouraged and you lean into “coincidental” conversations with people that God will bring along your path.

2. It’s not just about spiritual food.

If going to “church” once a week was just about gaining what you need spiritually to make it through another week, then tuning in online would be just fine. You could get what you need on Christian radio, reading books, studying the Bible or watching your favorite TV preacher. But the purpose of church is so much broader than that. It is about corporate worship, praying and studying the Bible together, serving one another and reaching out in mission together. This can’t be done in isolation.

3. You need the church.

You need the “church” (those people who are followers of Jesus and gather together with your congregation) more than you think you do. There is so much in Scripture about the relational aspects of the church—love one another, be devoted to one another, encourage one another, instruct one another, greet one another—and these can’t be done as well in a virtual environment.

4. The church is a living organism.

You remove your pancreas or esophagus or left arm, and it will cease to live outside your body. The New Testament knows nothing about a Christian who is not connected to a church. Your gifts, skills, ideas, service, leadership, resources, love—everything you have to offer—is a crucial part to a congregation thriving.

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5. Your presence matters more than you think.

Many times we think we won’t be missed. I don’t vote on election day because it doesn’t really matter. I don’t show up for my kids basketball game because he won’t even notice. I commit to the work day, then stay home, because surely they have enough people. I stay home and watch the service online, because in a church with 5,000 people, who will even notice that I’m not there? But that is so short-sighted and inaccurate. You underestimate the significance of your presence when you think it doesn’t matter. You undervalue the power of the Spirit of God residing within you when you believe staying home is just as good as showing up. You possibly miss what God wants to do through you and for you when you stay home.

So, why provide online church services?

• Because there are lonely, isolated people in the world, and it provides a bridge to them so they can eventually take a step into a community of faith.
• Because the Internet reaches billions of people all over the world, some who are not close enough to participate in a vibrant church.
• Because there are times when you are out of town, on vacation or away at college and it gives you a link to stay connected to your church.
• Because it serves as an easy invite tool for your friends who aren’t ready to step into a physical gathering, but they are hurting and need Jesus, and an online service can help you reach them.

Those are my thoughts. How would you have answered the same question?

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