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Why the Church Must Gather

Virtual services as a permanent replacement for assembling ourselves together would be a disastrous and sinful alternative for the church. You cannot replace the ministries of the church with a screen and a wi-fi connection. Below are just a few reasons for why the Church must not forsake our gathering together!

Protect this House - 1 Peter 2:4-5

1. It would violate the clear command to assemble ourselves together

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

A small group is a gathering but it is not the gathering. A percentage of the local church is not the biblical pattern of the whole church assembling ourselves together.

1 Corinthians 14:23 Therefore if the whole church assembles together…

2. It would conflict with roughly 40 “one-another” commands in Scripture that requires personal relationships  

Our first service after the prohibition was live-streamed from an empty building, and it was obvious why churches are designed to worship together.

I entered a quiet building, where I did not receive my normal greetings at the front door in the lobby. I was reminded of the simple command, to “Greet one Another” (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12; Philippians 4:21).

I read Scripture and prayed for a congregation, who did not visibly join with me. I was reminded of the command to give attention to the public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13) and to be devoted to prayer (Colossians 4:2).

I sang without the encouragement of voices bouncing off of the walls and covering the voices (like mine) that are out of tune. I was reminded of the command to speak “to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).

I preached to a small group, of around 10 people, and missed the sound of Bible pages turning, the look of attentive listeners, and the occasional “amens”, and “Gloria Dios” from one of our dear sisters. I was reminded of the command to “encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

None of these blessings can be replaced with a virtual service.

3. It would place our spiritual gifts on the shelf, which are intended for the benefit of the rest of the body

The pastor is just one member among many. Every joint and ligament of the body has its place in the body. The church can’t be replaced with a talking head behind a pulpit on a screen.

1 Corinthians 12:14 For the body is not one member, but many.

Ephesians 4:16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

4. It would rob the intended meaning from the rich biblical metaphors of the church

The church is a body made up of many members:
Romans 12:5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

The church is a flock made up of many sheep:
Acts 20:28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

The church is a building made up of many stones:
1 Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The church is a family household made up of family members:
1 Timothy 3:15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

5. It would remove the example of the shepherd among the flock

Church membership is more than a subscription to a podcast and Pastoral Leadership is more than having an online following.  Pastors are to live as examples among the flock. We are to be hands that care, and feet that walk alongside, not just mouths that speak. How can anyone be considered a shepherd, if he never has contact with the sheep?

1 Peter 5:3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples
to the flock.

1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

Philippians 4:9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

6. It would remove the example and encouragement of the sheep to one another

Not only is the shepherd an example and encouragement to the sheep, but the sheep are also an example and encouragement to one another. Imitation is a part of our discipleship.

Philippians 3:17 Brethren, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.

1 Thessalonians 1:7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

How much have you learned in church just by observing a godly Christian example? Maybe it was how someone spoke tenderly to their wife, or how someone patiently corrected their children, or how someone calmly redirected a conversation back to the Lord, or how someone graciously responded to criticism. We can’t replace those unscripted moments. Formal teaching from the pulpit is essential, but so is the example of one another.

7. It would hide the corporate witness of the church

Do you know that part of our witness to the unbelieving world happens when we gather together? The Scriptures let us know that the church is the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. (See also Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:24)
There is a place for the individual witness and testimony of the believer, but unbelievers will not see the body of Christ on display, outside of a gathering of believers. If the world is going to see a presentation of Christ on earth, it will be through the church!

We dare not diminish the corporate testimony of the church.

8. It would eliminate the practice of the church’s ordinances

You might be able to watch a baptism or communion service online but you will never be able to participate in either online.

Included in the Great Commission is the command to baptize. Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”

It doesn’t matter how advanced your monitor is, it can’t baptize you.  
We are also commanded to remember the Lord’s death in communion (Luke 22:19). The early church was not only devoted to the apostles’ teaching but also “to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

It’s also clear from 1 Corinthians 11 that the Lord’s Supper was to take place when the church met together. 1 Corinthians 11:20 “Therefore when you meet together…”

There is no way to follow the normal patterns and expressions of worship without being physically present.

9. It would greatly diminish the worship offered to the Lord

The weekly corporate gathering of the local church is the pattern for biblical worship. We are expected to worship the Lord as individuals Romans 12:1.

Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

However, the greatest expression of Christian worship occurs when we gather together as a local church. The corporate gathering of the church is the temple of God.

1 Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The New Testament makes it clear that the first day of each week was to be set aside for the corporate expressions of worship.

 1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.

Even our Christian giving is part of our worship to God “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).

10. It would display a lack of love for the body

We long to be with those we love. What would you think about a husband who never wanted to see his wife in person? What about a mother who never wanted to see her child, unless it was on screen?  Do you know of an engaged couple who never wants to spend time together? If you do know an engaged couple who never wants to spend time together, please give them some advice. Don’t get married!
We long to be with those we love. Do you have a longing to be with the body of Jesus Christ? Paul often spoke about longing to see the body.
Romans 1:11 For I long to see you…

Philippians 1:8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 3:6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you,
How will unbelievers see our love for one another if we never desire to be together?

John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Online Services will never be a Replacement for On-Site Services.  You can’t replace an in-person gathering with a screen and a wi-fi connection.  We need living connections! We are thankful for the ability to live-stream and happy to offer it as a service to our church, but it is not a replacement for service in our church. The Church must gather!
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