In the classic Spaghetti Western movies of the 1960s, such as “The good, the bad and the ugly” the baddie always wore a mask. These days with Covid-19 we ALL wear masks, even for Church. The new normal for services during Covid lockdown is online. So, let’s take stock of online church with some pro’s and con’s.
Access: Church online offers amazing access to anyone, at any time. Many people, who may not have ever entered a church building, have felt unthreatened in checking out church online. As a result, numerous online Alpha/Christianity Explained courses have started up, built on people exploring online services. Also, access online means church can be logged into anytime you are ready, rather than rushing to get to the church service.
Depth: For many, church online has allowed them to go into more depth. People have reported pausing sermons to write notes, check Bible cross-references, asking questions, and making comments on the chat page. This level of engagement brings a greater depth to a Christian’s maturity.
Routine: we are creatures of habit so when we do not have our normal Sunday service, then routines can fall away. Online church attendance has reduced in many congregations because people are distracted by other things.
Offering: Most churches have seen a big reduction in their finances. As a result, Pastors take a hit in their stipends, ministries and missions are scaled back and building maintenance reduced. Giving, as part of a person’s offering to God, has been hit hard.
Church as the people: One of the first causalities of covid is theology. Our understanding of God and worship is subverted rather than driving our response. If the Church is Jesus’ people, then in a covid culture it has lost its social connection. Many members have lost contact with each other and moved to a private faith. There is no individual salvation mentioned in the Bible.
Instead Christ saves individuals as part of His Church, Christ’s bride. Staying connected as a Church body is part of who we are as “the Church.” Doing Church online, without other connections, reflects a weak theology of our individualised Western culture, more than the Church’s unity in Christ.
Covid church brings out some good, some bad and some ugly aspects of our walk with God. Throughout history, trials and tribulations come upon each generation. It could be invading armies, natural disasters or diseases. Each situation offers Christians an opportunity to grow in their trust of God. More now than ever, Covid isolation has given the Church an opportunity to reflect the good news of Jesus to a world needing an eternal hope.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html