Posted by Bob Rogers
As the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads around the world, government agencies are encouraging people not to gather in large groups, including movie theaters, concerts, sports events and houses of worship. However, many Christians have questioned whether it is appropriate for the government to tell them not to meet for worship. I believe there is solid Biblical grounds for Christians to meet only online for a season. Here are five reasons:
Online worship is meeting together! Hebrews 10:25 says not to forsake meeting together, which is why so many churches are meeting online! God’s word is still being preached, and Christians are staying in touch through this venue. Insisting that meeting together can only be allowed a certain way in times of crisis is legalism. Jesus said to worship in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24), and the apostle Paul reminds us to avoid legalism, living by the Spirit, not the letter (Romans 2:29). The good news is, that in today’s world, a small church with one cell phone can broadcast for free on Facebook Live. We can still gather together!
Online worship doesn’t tempt God. The devil tempted Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the temple, to show His faith that the angels would protect Him. Jesus responded, “Do not test the Lord your God” (Matthew 4:5-7; Deuteronomy 6:16). COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease; risking exposure is not a faith that pleases God; it is tempting God.
Online worship is sound judgment. Yes, 2 Timothy 1:7 says God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, but the same verse also says that God gives us sound judgment. Every medical expert in the world advises people to avoid physical gatherings right now. Let’s use sound judgment and listen to the experts.
Online worship is good citizenship. Romans 13:1-4 tells believers to submit to the governing authorities, who work for our good. Our government agencies have asked this of us for our good. This is not a religious persecution—people of faith are not being singled out. Online worship shows our respect for both God and the government.
Online worship shows love to our neighbors. Jesus reminded us in Matthew 22:39 that the second greatest command is to love our neighbors. If we insist on our rights to meet in groups, and then infect many around us who spread it to others in our neighborhood, we have violated this command. Don’t think this is not a real possibility. Just one patient, known as “patient31,” attended Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a mega-church in Daegu, South Korea, and she exposed 1,160 people at the church, which led to 2,418 people being exposed around that church’s neighborhood. Online worship is a way to love our neighbors.
Admittedly, online worship or even worship while “social distancing” should not be promoted as a permanent replacement for gathering physically together. After all, the Lord’s Supper just isn’t the same without being in the same room (although my church is going to observe the Lord’s Supper simultaneously online). Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a “season for everything,” including “a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing” (Ecclesiastes 3:5b). In this “time to avoid embracing,” online worship is a way for the church to, as my pastor, Dr. David Whitten says, “love God, love people, and serve both.”
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