Is Online Church Still Church?

I vividly remember the first time I did online church with Community Bible Church 12 years ago. We gathered as an executive team and decided to upload our worship service. It was a Tuesday, but we took a recording of our Sunday service, updated our Facebook status, and watched with anticipation to see who would join.

To our surprise, people began to chat with each other. They began to pray for each other. And we actually had three people come to Christ in that initial online worship service.

It was an amazing result. And yet we couldn’t help but ask ourselves, “Is this church?”

As of this writing, churches across the world have embraced live streaming as a way to continue the church experience in light of the novel coronavirus. And each live stream experience is as unique as its host.

But today, you may be asking the same question we did. Can this really be classified as “church” as outlined in the Bible?

If you define “church” as a building where people congregate to worship God, then no, it’s not church. But nowhere in the Bible is “church” indicated to be a building.

“Where two or three are gathered in my name,” promises Jesus in Matthew 18:20, “there am I among them” (ESV). The power of this verse is that He’s not talking about believers gathered in a building enjoying a sermon. He’s talking about believers gathered in active prayer.

Church isn’t about consumption – it’s about community. With the solid foundation of God’s Word, engaging times of worship, and opportunities to connect, we can create a community of hope for a world in need.

What we saw in that first online church experiment was people worshiping together. We saw a pastor preaching God’s Word and a congregation learning from it. We saw people coming to faith. We witnessed others sharing their joy and praying for one another. There was community happening. It was church as we knew it.

So next time you wonder if you’re doing online church “right” or how you can do it “better,” stop and think about how you’re fostering community in your congregation.

Need practical, effective tips on how to better engage your online church community? Check out my free course on the Dunham Institute, Online Church – Providing the Best Experience.

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