A Non-Assembling Church is a Contradiction

It is time. Time to come back to church.

I know your PJs are more comfy than the church clothes you don on a Sunday. So come in your PJs, I don’t care. Just come – even in PJs you might be better dressed than my son Caleb!

I know the couch at home is more broken in than the chairs at church…and access to the kitchen is nice…and not having to wrangle the kids is pretty great. But sitting and watching the livestream…it’s not church. Set the alarm, and come to church.

The livestreams? Wow, what a blessing that we could livestream worship and teaching while we were locked down during the pandemic. Livestreams were a great substitute for going to church when we couldn’t go to church.

But, doing a livestream isn’t doing church; watching a livestream isn’t going to church. We’ve continued the livestreams even when we re-gathered for those who can’t come to church – not vaccinated yet, shut-ins, sick folk, out of town for work, etc. The livestreams are for those who can’t come – as in, aren’t able to come. If you can come, but aren’t, well let me be blunt – the livestream isn’t for you. And, even more bluntly, if you’re going to work and your kids baseball games and to restaurants and stores and spring break vacations…you can come. And you should.

Get to church.

The Greek word we translate as church means “assembly.” It was used in the secular world to describe the assemblies of citizens in a city-state. Nothing particularly religious about the word – it just means assembly. So, an assembly that doesn’t assemble? Yeah, that doesn’t work. Or saying, “I’m a part of the assembly,” even though you never go to the agora for the assembly…yeah, that doesn’t really work either.

For a time, we couldn’t assemble, we couldn’t go to church. We did what we could as a substitute for joining the assembly of believers, aka going to church – we livestreamed, we Zoomed, etc. But let’s not confuse the replacement with the real thing!

Oh, but isn’t gathering electronically just a different method of gathering? Aren’t we still doing church when we gather over the intrawebs?

No. It isn’t the same.

In February, my mom finally got to make the trip from NY to IN. It had been nearly two years since we’d been in the same physical space. We’d talked often – usually four or five times a week. We Skype semi-regularly through the twenty-some months of absence. All those were great substitutes for being with each other…but they weren’t being together. When I picked her up at the airport and brought her to our house, then I was “with my mom.”

Maybe you’ve considered signing off completely. Maybe you’ve decided over these past few months you don’t need the church to be a good Christian. Two part answer. First, please consider that the church needs you – you being a regular part of the assembly is an act of love for your sisters and brothers, as well as the church’s Lord. Second, Jesus would beg to differ. He gave his life for the church (Eph 5:25), established the church (Matt 16:18), gave explicit detailed instructions to the church (most of the NT letters) because he knew you needed the church. I’ll end with wise & provocative words from John Stott, “An unchurched christian is a grotesque anomaly. The New Testament knows nothing of such a person. For the church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought.