Is Online Church the Same as Normal Church?

Over on Twitter, Jonathan Leeman gives four questions for those who think virtually gathered church is the same as the physically gathered church.

Question from a pastor friend:

“What would you say to someone who says that assembling as a church does not necessitate PHYSICAL proximity because we can assemble on a VIRTUAL platform without bodily being in the same room?”

I’d offer four sets of questions in reply:

1) As a matter of ontology: is a virtual gathering THE EXACT SAME THING as physical gathering? That is, would you say virtual sexual intimacy with your spouse is the exact same thing as physical? Or that virtually visiting Paris is the same as being there? Or that virtually embracing your ailing mother in her hospital bed is the same as physically doing so?

2) As a matter of anthropology: Why did God give us bodies and what significance do they have? Or, as with the gnostics, should we say that we don’t have bodies, or at least that they’re inconsequential?

3) As a matter of biblical obedience: if one will concede that physical and virtual gathering are not the exact same thing, are you prepared to stand before Jesus on the last day and say you fully obeyed his command to gather (Heb. 10:25)?

4) As a pastoral matter: again, if you concede virtual and physical are not the exact same, is virtual not a cheaper substitute? If it is, why are you working so hard to offer Christians and non-Christians the cheaper substitute? Is it conducive to long-term health and witness?

I believe we can apply these same four sets of questions to the more common practice of live-streaming church services.

Worth considering.


About Dana Dill

I'm a Christian, husband, daddy, pastor, professor, and hope to be a friend to pilgrims on their way home.
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