"Now the place where we gather has changed from an actual building to a virtual online platform. This platform cannot support us physically, but our will of spirit and faith can be fulfilled on this platform and it can be a means to maintain the relationship between God and us. "
Pastor Bian Rongliang from the Shandong International Chapel shared an audio sermon on Webchat entitled "The Church Meets Online Instead of Onsite”. He said that during the pandemic the church’s onsite worship activities are suspended, but online worship and pastoral ministries are continuing so that the teachings of the Bible that state believers are not to forsake meeting together are followed.
He first talked about the differences between a church building and the Church. The church building is a fixed place for Christian worship. It is a building. The Church is a very ancient expression in ancient Greek. It means a group of people called by God to gather together to worship God. This is the purpose of the Church.
Today the church building is closed, but the Church is not closed.
On the one hand, Christ is the head of the Church and no one can close its door. The Church was founded by Jesus and welcomes everyone.
During the pandemic we worship online instead of onsite. So although the church building is closed, the Church continues.
He also pointed out that there is a difference between a gathering and a get-together. The purpose of the get-together is to worship God and glorify the name of God. The goal is also to establish the relationship between man and God. When we meet in the church, some are worshiping God and some are gathering for personal reasons.
Then he shared a scripture from Hebrews: "Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)
The expression "giving up meeting together" here has several meanings. First, it means to leave the church building and the place where everyone worships God. Second, leave the group (church) that worships God and do not relate to them. The third is to leave Christ and deny your faith. If in today’s situation we do not participate in this form of online worship, this is also giving up meeting together.
"The Day" is the day when Jesus Christ returns. We are called believers in Jesus, but what do we believe? We believe in his birth, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and his return. We don't know when he will come again. With the passing of each day we are one day closer to the day when Jesus returns. When the next disaster, epidemic, war or time of suffering comes, what will we do as Christians? Do we preach the end of the world? Pastor Bian said no. "What we have to do is to pray for hard times, to ask our God to give mercy to those in trouble, to pray for God's peace, and to beg God to rescue more people and bring them back to God."
We should also encourage one another even if only online. In addition to the pastor preaching to the congregation and telling them to follow the Lord and love others, many brothers and sisters can also exhort each other online to strengthen their faith and overcome their fears. They can also communicate and build each other up spiritually and together maintain their relationship with Christ .
Pastor Bian also shared examples of some of the inappropriate things done by believers during online worship and suggestions on how to improve.
First, there is a danger of believers weakening their commitment to the local church because they are not having worship services at the church building. Pastor Bian proposed that they should pay attention to the online messages sent by his church, and care for the brothers and sisters who face disease and difficulties.
Second, many believers can’t participate in online worship with the appropriate reverence. They may do housework while participating in online worship. He suggested we should attend an online church in the same way as if the service were in a church building. You should find a space where you can quiet your heart to worship God as if you are in the temple. And when the host says to pray, we bow our heads to pray; when the host says to sing a hymn, we pick up the hymnbook to sing; when the preacher gives the sermon, we quietly listen and take notes.
Third, believers listen to the sermons of famous preachers who they admire and don’t listen to the pastor from their own church. Various pastors and churches put their worship service and ministry materials online, which gives people the opportunity to participate at any time or in any place they desire. So some believers listen to the sermons of famous preachers. During this time our worship should be focused on the Word of God, not on people.
In addition to taking seriously our participation in online worship, the pastor also pointed out that we should pray. Pray for the church, for brothers and sisters, and for the universal church. Even when no one can enter the church, we pray that God will be with every brother and sister and live among us. And we beg God to heal the sick and let the pandemic pass by as soon as possible so that the church will re-open and we can return to the church.
In conclusion, the pastor encouraged everyone: "Even though we are meeting online and not in a church building, this is still worship. I hope that each of us will not give up. In any form of meeting, we can have an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus."
- Translated by Abigail Wu