The pandemic of 2020 forced all of us to reimagine life as we once knew it. In addition to schools, workplaces, and sports organizations, the Church has also had to wrestle with how to promote and preserve as most sacred ideals, one of which is corporate worship. For over a year, many local churches shifted to a virtual worship format. Weekly meetings were held via Zoom (if at all), and many have commented that there is no need to return to in-person gatherings.
My contention is that there is great value in our corporate, in-person gatherings. As my members have often heard me say, there are some things that you cannot get virtually. The Bible commands us to pray for one another and to bear one another’s burdens. While prayer can certainly take place virtually, there is something to be said about being there for one another in person. Think of the pain you feel when a loved one dies. Part of the healing process is to gather with family and friends, so as to not have to bear that burden alone. Think of the millions of people who had to carry a COVID diagnosis alone, quarantined at home or in a medical facility of some sort. Regardless of the level of symptoms they felt, the greatest hurt, possibly, is the feeling of loneliness and isolation from people.
The fact is, God designed us to live in community. He said of Adam that is was not good for him to be alone. This is not simply for the purpose of marriage or procreation. It is to say that there are certain lessons and growth opportunities we cannot experience in isolation. For example, we learn forgiveness and reconciliation in community. We learn to cooperate and share in community. More critically, we experience spiritual breakthroughs in community. This happens when we hear the testimonies of others and are allowed to share in the struggles of our fellow Christians, ultimately to discover that we are not alone in ours.
I cannot speak for every local church. But as a principle, God uses our corporate gatherings to accomplish the very things I mentioned previously. Imagine a virtual family reunion, or a virtual cruise on Zoom where everyone dresses up like they are on a ship, but it’s really your living room. That is not a gathering that excites me, and it is not an experience that can sustain me long-term. My position is that we should never get used to being away from each other. The pandemic presented a unique set of circumstances, the likes of which forced us to adjust for a season. However, as the world returns back to a new norm, let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Yes, we really need to GO to church. Of all the things you can do by yourself, God fixed it to where you cannot grow spiritually in isolation. We need each other because we ARE the Church. Selah!