Written by: ChristianView Network
Article source: www.facebook.com

Covid19 has resulted in an increasing number of Christians no longer connected with any local church and attending online services churches outside their home town. Covid19 streaming and zoom means you can attend a church you used to be part of when you lived in Europe; your pick of mega-church in America; you can join your kids in their service in Australia. Why not pick the preacher and worship band who best suit your tastes over the one near to you? And why not just connect with all your Christian friends via social media instead of a particular local church? A trend of ‘out of church Christians’, which started with Christian television a few decades ago has now become mainstream – maybe even a majority. Technology has been a blessing in keeping us connected with our local churches during lockdown – but an increasing number of Christians in all denominations are disconnecting with their local church and and “tuning in” to some other church. And these are not just flaky Christians but serious ones tuning into good churches overseas – sometimes with better Bible teaching than their local church. And so why not?

Western Culture in the past decades has seen a mega-shift in our concept of church, that makes it almost unrecognisable to the previous two millennia – in effect a reverse reformation – a decay in church health. We are so far into this decay that we don’t realise is abnormal and one step further during Covid19 doesn’t seem so bad. But most of the serious spiritual problems in the church can be traced back to a loss of the structural vision of the church – with checks and balances, which should have protected us from such decay. Our generation has already seen the disaster of theological education being taken out of church control into universities; of shallow lyric worship music chosen for its catchy tunes and attractive twenty year old singers instead of by pastors; of celebrity ministry leaders with no accountability. Mega churches become like cinema and membership like a name on a database. Many modern pastors view themselves as service professionals like doctors who won’t hold members accountable. Seeker sensitive churches treat people like business customers e.g. “The customer is always right”. Disciplinary findings in one church are ignored by the next making them ineffective abandoning the vision of one universal church. Now Covid19 streaming allow many to take the next step of disengagement from any local church.

Firstly, we must look at the vision of church Jesus gave us. Secondly, practical consequences of not doing so.

The New Testament actually doesn’t give a lot of detail about how to do church, leaving us a lot of freedom to choose for example or our worship format and musical tastes. Of the things it does specify, preaching and worship music can take place via the internet to a church we don’t know or belong to but covenantal community with leadership structure, personal relationships, mutual help and accountability and discipline cannot. Leadership are to be chosen for their godly personal moral example (1 Timothy 3, Titus). How are you supposed to know that if you aren’t even in the same city? How is the church supposed to do disciplinary action (Matthew 18) against those who are not a member of anything in the first place? The word ‘pastor’ means shepherd, following the great shepherd Jesus. Jesus knows his sheep as did historic middle eastern shepherds. Paul in the New Testament repeatedly greets people by name (e.g. Romans 16). That can’t be done via anonymous online and TV church.

The New Testament churches had many flaws, which are the subject of the letters as do modern local churches. But one universal church with many local communities was Jesus vision, the practice of the New Testament and most of the history of the church.

There are options for those with health risks to remain connected to their local church even without physically going into a church building. For example: Being a member; Tuning in to your own local church, rather than some on the other side of the world; Chatting to people on the phone and video calls; Zoom meetings including the option of breakout rooms; Out of door meetings. A church can take the initiative or members can take initiative. Church buildings are not specified by the Bible, but a connected community is.

Practically, this mass of local church disconnected floating internet and TV Christians are not going to have the healthy benefits of local church participation for example:
  • They are vulnerable to false teachers since there is no accountability or personal knowledge on the internet.
  • The most dramatic sensationalist preachers and social media meme posters are the ones who are going to get the most shared and liked – and most likely to be wrong. Just as social media has spread disastrous health advice, it is also vulnerable to spread disastrous spiritual advice.
  • Will unlikely get spiritual help and discipline if they really need it, for example if you have marriage trouble. A psychologist who wants a happy customer is unlikely to tell you to repent of your sin and do what the Bible says when it hurts in the short term.
  • Odds are low the next generation will grow up as practicing Christians without being part of a Christian community.
  • Don’t have the capacity to reach and disciple new converts and give help to friends in struggling outside your skill set and capacity.
  • You won’t even know if your social media friends are suffering serious problems because most of them won’t post about them.
  • In a local church, you share a journey and learn together. You discuss what you learned. Fragmented Christians don’t.
  • A pastor, if he is godly, should have the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the personal knowledge of his flock to know what messages they need to hear. An internet pastor cannot do this.

So there are benefits to local church membership and participation, which go beyond just listening to preaching and participation in worship music. While technology to connect us to a local church during a pandemic is a blessing, technology diverting people away from a local church is not.


Feature image: unsplash.com

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