An ad showing up on my facebook page lately offers the chance to “experience church online” at their site “without ever having to leave your home.” I know there are some things about church that can be experienced via technology, and readers of this blog know I seek to take advantage of those things. But actually experience church online? Are you kidding? To “forsake the gathering of ourselves together, as some are in the habit are doing,” is something Christians are biblically exhorted against, even more now in this techno-world we find ourselves in, as we see the day of the Lord approaching. You may hear a sermon online, but you can’t experience the move of God’s Spirit in the body of His people from your home. You may pray simultaneously with someone who is on your computer screen, but you can’t grow close to them and love them with the love of the Lord (or receive that love in return). You may sing along with a band on your computer, but you will not experience the Lord’s presence as He inhabits the praises of His people along with those present. And when the service is over, you will neither receive, nor pass on to others, the encouragement, exhortation, building up, bearing one another’s burdens, and joining together to fulfill the Great Commission that requires you to be present with the assembly. And you will be missing a lot by missing these things, as well as failing to play your role in the body of Christ. You will have no evangelistic outreach and no church to take people to if you limit your worship to online activity.
I know how draining spiritually not having a church to join with can be. Our first 8 months on the mission field, we were only evangelists, sowing new seed in new territory, and having no fellow believers present to fellowship with and worship the Lord with during that time. It was the most difficult time of our ministry, with nothing like it before or since. And we were watching and participating as much as possible with American churches online at the time. I’m thankful that for people in that situation, and for shut-ins that can’t go out, that churches put their services on tv or the web, even though it doesn’t fill the whole gap for those people. But this ad is kind of annoying me, because they are not even marketing their online church experience to those people in need. They are falsely advertising something that they cannot provide: real church assembly without actually having to be there. And the people who believe their ad will be spiritually harmed by it more than they suppose.