28th August 2020
Isn’t online church great? You can watch when you like, with whom you like. You can wear what you like. You can fast forward through the bits you don’t like. You can even skip a week, or go to another church, and nobody will know.
Actually, you can probably tell, I don’t think it is that great. It’s a lot better than not doing church at all, and it’s been the best we can do at the moment, but it’s not great. And even as we start meeting in church again, many of us will still be watching online.
One of the problems with online church is that it’s easy to behave as a consumer. I’m the one who chooses what’s best for me, and if I don’t like it I don’t do it. I’ve found, preparing to record services, that it feels increasingly like putting on a show. I’m afraid that, if the performance isn’t good enough, you might get bored and go elsewhere.
We also miss out on a thousand and one little ways of serving one another, which happen normally when we meet together: smiling a greeting, saying a few encouraging words, helping someone get what they need. It means I can avoid the people I find difficult: I don’t have to see them at all! I can focus on what works best for me, without troubling myself with what other people need.
It’s not that online church is wrong, but it’s very easy to think and act like a consumer. So what can we do about it?
First, recognise the problem in our own hearts, that we naturally think of ourselves first. Be determined, as Paul writes to the Philippians, “in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
Second, participate in the service itself as much as possible. Sing the songs, read the passage in your Bible, join in the prayers. Stand for the songs and the creed, bow your head and close your eyes for the prayers.
Third, look to meet with others as much as you can, in person if possible, and if not online. Meet to watch the service together, to talk about it, or simply to catch up at another time.
Fourth, take every opportunity you can to serve others, to show those little kindnesses that happen naturally when we do meet together.
Lord, thank you that you do meet every need we have, but keep us from being mere consumers and make us worshippers and servants too.