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  • Writer's picturePastor John Smith

Missing the Assembly

With the mandates regarding social distancing, travel restrictions, and the prohibition of social gatherings, it has forced churches to reevaluate their understanding of ecclesiology—what the church is and what does it do.

Many churches have opted to go virtual, offering their services online via live stream on social media. So, instead of getting ready for church and packing the family in the car to gather for worship, all one needs to do is turn on the computer, log into Facebook and you can have the worship experience in the comfort of your own home.

However, as amazing as modern technology is and how numerous people have been blessed and edified by watching services online, watching a live stream on your computer or phone is not church.

The word “church” by its very definition is a gathering of people. The word in Greek is ekklesia, which means “called out assembly” and the only way any of us can do church is if we assemble publicly to worship God. If you aren’t able to gather or assemble with other brothers and sisters, then you aren’t having church.

The potential pitfall that will come out of this pandemic is you will have a whole host of people, that when the restriction is lifted, will feel perfectly fine staying home. After all, they have had weeks to develop a habit and understanding that they can achieve the same spiritual result online without going to church. It grieves me, that church leaders are reinforcing this tendency by telling people that they are doing church in their living room. Keep in mind, that those same leaders a few months ago would have discouraged people from sitting in front of a television or computer screen and calling it “church”.

Now some might chide me, saying “We are the church.” and the church is a matter of being rather than going. I agree with that sentiment to an extent, but I find it rather difficult to “be the church” when you don’t go to church or gather for worship.

Yes, we live in some unprecedented times and the day calls us to be wise and prudent as to how we conduct ourselves in light of this viral outbreak. We take precautions to not unintentionally infect anyone with COVID-19 but also, we should make every effort to not unintentionally signal that not gathering for public worship is acceptable.

We should take seriously the virus but also we should take seriously Hebrews 10:24-25 which state, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as in the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

We should mourn at the restrictions in place. Our hearts should grieve that churches have shut their doors and brothers and sisters are unable to gather together to worship. We should weep and yearn for the day when we can break bread with our brothers and sisters at the Lord’s Table and proclaim the death of Christ in communion.

How long will this restriction last? I have no idea. There is a part of me that wonders if it will ever be lifted. Furthermore, I wonder when churches in our nation will say “enough is enough” and then assemble to give praise and glory of God?

I hope soon.

Until then, I urge that none of us settle into complacency and accept what we are doing now as “church”. It’s not. Besides, sitting on the couch looking at a screen cannot compare to looking into the eyes of your brother or sister in Christ or hearing them join with you in song. The cold and deadness of a digital screen cannot measure up to the life and warmth that Body of Christ has to offer and so we should be even more diligent to fight against the temptation to believe that gathering together is unimportant or irrelevant when we have technology at our disposal.

I miss the church gathered and I hope you do too.

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