JACKSON, MI – What an incredibly unique time we find ourselves in! During this pandemic, it seems as if new orders from our governor and national leaders are coming faster than we can pastorally keep up with them. Pastor’s minds, schedules, and time have been consumed by issues such as: how to do a quality live stream or video, how to meet needs, how to help the church remain connected with each other, and even whether or not you can leave home to go to the office. Amid trying to get all of these things accomplished, I fear that we haven’t slowed down to consider what our practices and language communicate to people about our ecclesiology.
Ecclesiology is the study of what we believe about the church. Christians throughout history have generally understood the local church to be a “group of Christians who regularly gather in Christ’s name to officially affirm and oversee one another’s membership in Jesus Christ and his kingdom through gospel preaching and gospel ordinances.” (Jonathan Leeman)
When the local church gathers in corporate worship, this time includes fellowship, mutual edification, preaching of the word, giving, ordinances, and song. Considering these truths, we must be careful to not teach our churches that those other forms, whether it is through video or live stream or whatever else, are the same thing as the regular corporate gathering of the church in worship. Anything less than the face to face meeting of God’s people together falls short of and is but a shadow of corporate worship. What this means is that we must be careful in the language we use to describe what we do when we livestream or post videos.
We must ask if the things that happen when the local church meets in person can happen through these other means. If the church is not gathered in person, can we advertise the livestream to be church? Should we tell people to “have church from their living rooms” by watching a video if the local church is not actually gathered?
My encouragement to you is to use the means God has given to communicate to your people, but to also be careful and thoughtful about what you say about those meetings. Allow God to use this time to teach His church that anything other than them gathered in person can bring fulfillment or fully meet their needs. Know that it is okay for the church to feel a great tension that what happens through a video feed is not the same as when they meet together. Pray that God would use this time apart from one another to create in our hearts a greater appreciation and longing to come together again in corporate worship and in community. When we are able to meet together again, let that time be a time of great celebration to the Glory of God!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Walling has pastored churches in Arkansas, Tennessee, and now Michigan where he has ministered as Grace Church’s senior pastor since March of 2011. James has received degrees from several schools including a Doctor of Ministry degree in expository preaching from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.