Is there a difference between online and embodied worship? Does God care whether I attend church virtually or in person? In this article, Pastor David Platt urges Christians to adhere to God’s design for community by gathering physically at church. He acknowledges that much of the world has become virtual in the twenty-first century. However, Pastor Platt explains how God designed the church to be experienced on a local and physical level. While we can be thankful for the blessing of streaming technology during the pandemic, we should also be wary of isolating ourselves from the service, encouragement, and accountability of the local church.
So by no means is this pandemic over in the world. Far from it. But by God’s mercy, we’re in a part of the world where vaccinations are available for those who choose to get them. By God’s mercy, we’re at a point where, as best we know, loosening restrictions and protocols seems good and right as we consider one another. So for that reason, I want to encourage us together as a church family
That it’s time to break this habit of neglecting to meet together.
If you are a part of the MBC church family here in Metro Washington, DC, I want to encourage you today to begin moving back toward physically gathering with the church, as it’s appropriate and possible.
Then, if you’re not a part of MBC, maybe you’ve been joining in from beyond Metro Washington, DC. I hope that joining in during this last year has been an encouragement to you spiritually. It has been awesome to have so many people joining in from different states and countries around the world every week. There’s a sense in which we have loved that and our services will continue to be aired online. The sermons are on podcast. There are tons of resources at mcleanbible.org and radical.net. We want to be an encouragement to you in the broader church. We don’t want to be a substitute for what God has designed—a local, physical, in-the-flesh church near you—to do in your relationship with Him and with one another in the church.
Why Can’t I Just Do Church Online?
I realize that saying this may reduce our online numbers, but we want far more for you to be in a living, breathing church, gathering where you are on a week-by-week basis, because this is what it means to be the church. I realize even that statement may sound foreign or even outdated to some of you. People might think, “This is the twenty-first century, a new day; the world’s been turned upside down. We can just do church from home or wherever else online. Can’t we hear God’s Word and worship and grow in Christ from here, actually in a lot of ways that are better for me or my family? Can’t I just do church from a distance?”
Again, if you are bedridden, or if you are deployed in the military, or traveling one week, church from a distance may be your only option. But for most of us, we have the option of gathering physically with a church. And where we have that option, God in His Word calls us to meet together. That’s the language here [in Hebrews 10:24–25]: to draw near to God together, to hold fast to our hope together. “Let us draw near, let us hold fast, let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together.”
God Wants Us to Meet together
Apparently, according to Hebrews 10, these things cannot happen if we are neglecting to meet together. The implication of this text seems to be clear, that God has designed helpful good things to happen in your life, and in others’ lives, in the church, when you meet together. And neglecting to meet together actually leads to unhelpful, dangerous things in your life.