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Virtual Worship?

Virtual Worship?

   What is this world coming to? A recent Fox News article is entitled: “Church as we know it is over. Here’s what’s next.”   The article begins by pointing out that “church” as we know it is based on physical attendance and that it is “location-centric”. Then, time is taken up in the article to decry the fact that “church leaders” have had to take time weekly to “encourage, invite, and plead” with people to come to a specific place on a specific time on Sundays.   Finally, the article concedes that “forward thinking churches realized that people no longer engaged with organizations just physically, so they developed online platforms that streamed services parallel to the physical church.”   Additionally, the article states that when social media entered the scene, those “forward thinking” churches adjusted again, creating multi-channel strategies that allow people to access some content physically, some on line and some on the church’s social media platforms. They bought in to the “virtual reality” worship idea.

   Now, before some think that I am a luddite, (one who is opposed to technological change) let me say that I have totally embraced technology. I use e-mail, research on-line, use a computer for many things, including uploading sermons and articles to our website. I even own and operate a smart phone. I do draw the line with certain social media – I don’t tweet, facebook, snapchat and such.   That is not to say that all these are wrong or evil. However, I firmly believe the idea of “virtual worship”, or that which allows folks to choose when to worship, rather than to gather with God’s people is an abomination to God.   The above mentioned article likens its multi-media options to a pool with no lane buoys – “everyone is able to explore any part of the pool in their own time.”   Have you ever been to a pool without lane buoys? TOTAL CONFUSION1Corinthians 14:33 makes it crystal clear that such a concept is foreign to God. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.  Why would God set up New Testament worship, organize the church and command attendance if it is not important?

     Jesus, in John 4:24, while talking with the Samarian woman at the well, stated a fact that cannot be denied. He said: God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. This is a requirement because there are many who “ignorantly” worship.     One such case is found in Acts 17:22-23 which offered the apostle Paul a wonderful opportunity to preach the gospel to those people. Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.23For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.  Certainly this declaration was made “face to face” as vs 33 tells us that after Paul has finished speaking the Words the Spirit gave him, Paul departed from among them.

   This idea of “virtual worship” is a cop-out for those who find it inconvenient to do as God has commanded. Hebrews 10:25 instructs the Hebrews Christians of the fallacy of “forsaking” what God commands. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.  Let me pose some scenarios to see if they can be “simulated” and still be effective.   1) Can one “virtually” partake of the Lord’s Supper? In 1Corinthians 11:33 after receiving correction regarding the Lord’s Supper, notice where they were to be when eating it, as well as they were to wait for one another.   Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.  Acts 20:7 tells us when they were to “come together” to break bread, which is another way of saying – to partake of the Lord’s Supper. This is to be done “every first day of every week.”   And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.  The Supper is a privilege as well as a command. The preaching till midnight is optional. 2) Can singing in worship be done “virtually”? In Hebrews 2:12 the Spirit had the penman direct the minds of the Christians regarding this avenue of worship. Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.  Let me point out that the building is not the church, but the church meets in the building. 3) Giving to the Lord is commanded in 1Corinthians 16:2. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. This particular “offering” was to be gathered for the benefit of the beleaguered saints in Jerusalem during the famine. The precedent for our giving is set here. Some congregations have embraced the idea of “on-line” giving.   They claim it makes it easier on folks to “support” the work. Why not “give” while “gathered” with the church?   I wonder how these churches would feel if we sent them our “virtual” wealth. I assure they want our “actual” monies as they cannot spent funds that don’t really exist.  

   Finally, let me ask? What if God “virtually” sent His Son to die on the cross? The blood of Christ would not have “really” been shed. If His blood was not “really” shed, it would not have been taken before the Father as the supreme sacrifice that can save a soul. Therefore you could not be saved as you could not contact that blood in baptism.  Also, Heaven and Hell are not virtual. They are very real. You will spend eternity in one of them.   Are you willing to “gamble” your soul on “virtual” worship?            

                                 Dennis S – Mooresville church of Christ

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