Are you keen to return to physical church, or is online church too comfortable?

Are you keen to return to physical church, or is online church too comfortable?

We all settle into routines and habits after a while. After the rapid changes we experienced at the start of this pandemic, for many of us life has settled into a different ‘normal’. This has meant working from home and experiencing church via online services and Zoom Bible studies. It felt strange to start with but now we feel the advantages of all of this. We can watch a church service when we like, wearing pajamas and holding a cup of tea. Many have told me that they like being able to pause a service to go to the toilet and the fact that they are not distracted by toddlers and people coming in and out of the main hall during the service.

There are clearly some advantages to staying at home more and having online community events. Part of the reason that many of us like this way of doing things is that it is tailored just for us. It is convenient and comfortable.

In light of this, the news that ministries and church services are heading back to physical gatherings might be seen as unwelcome information to some of us. It’s a natural reaction to change when you think about it. Once we are comfortable with a routine, we don’t like changing it. We might think that physical gatherings don’t work as well for us. They are not as comfortable. We might, shock horror, have to drive somewhere and dress up a little!

We need to remember something. Church is not just about us. It’s not just about what we find comfortable. In fact, the church family is about how we can serve others.

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Church is also a community where we learn how to serve Jesus. The New Testament is full of commands that we should do for “one another”. A key way we learn to grow as Christians is through the influence of other Christians (as we learn in Eph 4:15-16). The way we learn patience and humility and gentleness (Eph 4:1-6) is partly through coping well with the toddler making noise in the service and putting up with others we don’t naturally get along with. When we physically meet together, we have more opportunities to learn from one another.

Church is also a community where outsiders can come to meet God (1 Cor 14:24-25). Sure, non-Christians can find our online services. But church is more than the formal elements. Visitors to church are not only listening to the teaching but meeting the people. When we gather, especially in our city location, we have more opportunities to welcome outsiders that we simply don’t have online.

So when your Bible study leader tells you that the group is back to meeting in real life, or when the physical church services start, don’t dwell on the comfort you will lose. Think about the opportunities this gives you to serve other people. And pray that the reopening of church will be a great blessing to both existing church members and those we haven’t yet met.