Rev Craig Cooney
Like many places of worship, our church moved all of our services and events online when Covid-19 started to spread. It was the right thing to do. And, in many ways, it’s been a success.
Our normal Sunday congregation of 300 has grown to around 3,000 online. Many non-churchgoers have been viewing and some have expressed an interest to join us when we meet again in a physical location.
However, I want to make something very clear: online church is not church.
Church is when the people of God gather together to worship God, hear his word and have fellowship with one another; that cannot be done while looking at a screen.
I think we need to be reminded of this because there is a danger that we are beginning to accept the abnormal as normal.
It’s nice to sit in your pyjamas on a Sunday morning and watch your minister and worship group, but that is not church. We must be wary of being lulled into laziness, or petrified into passivity.
As the church, we are undoubtedly called to kindness, care and compassion. But we are also supposed to be faith-filled, courageous and prophetic. Following Christ was never meant to be safe.
The Bible clearly indicates that, in the last days, things will get much worse than they are now.
Do we plan to keep our church doors shut every time anything threatens our sense of safety? I pray not.
Of course, we continue to protect the vulnerable and those with medical conditions. But we must also press forward and seek to restart services in church buildings as soon as possible.
There are a lot of lonely, isolated people out there whose only sense of real community comes from being part of a local church.
As always, anyone is free to stay at home if they would prefer. However, the Bible makes it very clear: “ ...let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near...” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
For the church to meet together in the first century meant risking persecution, or even death. I can’t help but wonder what the writer of Hebrews would think of the church today.