A Brick from a Building: Is worship in an overflow room the same as worship online?
“If I am gonna’ watch church in an overflow room I might as well just watch church from home…”
It’s going to happen. The moment will come, most likely this weekend, where someone – or perhaps multiple someones – utter just such a phrase. I get it. I understand. Truly, I do. But the logic is faulty and the disposition from which it comes is either ignorant or outright sinful.
I know it’s 2020, but don’t cancel me. Please. Allow me to explain.
This weekend our church opens our live overflow worship room. Many churches provide such a space, but this – like worship online in March – will be a first for us. The room is directly behind our current worship room, will have breezeways into our worship room, will have the livestream on a twenty-something foot screen, but will not – for 90% of the room – have a direct line-of-sight to the stage, the band, or the devilishly good-looking preacher (kidding, of course – calm yourself). With this new setup the question (or one like it) on many minds will be: How is this different than church from home? Or constructed differently and with at least a hint of snark: “If I am gonna’ watch church in an overflow room I might as well just watch church from home.”
Perhaps you are free of criticism and are genuinely curious. Perhaps your heart in moments such as this, like mine, needs shepherding. Perhaps you are living on razor-edge and this blog is the “last straw.” Perhaps you just need to know how “overflow worship” is truly better than “worship online.” Wherever you might land, I hope you will give these five points honest, thought-provoking, Spirit-submitting consideration.
1. You need the church…and the church needs you.
We have for long declared that a “church is not a monument, it is a movement” and that “the true church is not a place but a people.” However, you understand this Biblical reality, the truth stands that you don’t “watch church” or “go to church;” but, in the most legitimate terms, you are the church. You are part of a living body. You are the bride of Christ. You are “bricks in the household of God.” You are a sheep in a flock. You are a chosen person as part of a chosen people. This means that when one member of the body chooses to remove himself/herself from the body for illegitimate reasons (to be clear, if you are distancing yourself still with legitimate health concerns that is understandable), then the body suffers and that member weakens. It’s that simple. You were made to be a part of the whole. You were called to Christ and to His people. You were given gifts to be expressed in the church – to serve the family of Jesus. There are individuals in this local church that need what God has given you to serve them. And, you were created with the capacity to need the ministering gifts of others. This can take place in a live worship room or in a live overflow; but it cannot take place alone in your living room on a Sunday morning. Sadly, in the tumult and fray of 2020, many members of the body – especially as personal rights have taken center stage – have lost sight of the “one-anotherness” of genuine Christianity.
2. You need to be shepherded.
When the Lord appointed pastor-elders He did not do this merely for grand-standing notoriety. He wasn’t wasting ink on paper or blowing hot air through the apostle Paul. Instead, He placed these leaders in every church to “care for the church of God” and “to pay close attention to the flock.” He established local church leadership to instruct, counsel, direct, reproof, edify, and serve His people. Corporate instruction can take place virtually (though I am hearing from increased numbers of folks who admit that listening over a television or computer screen has not had the impact of being with the people as the Spirit moves), but so much of what God has called and gifted your leaders to do for you must take place face-to-face. Though I have many things to write to you, I don’t want to do so with paper and ink. Instead, I hope to be with you and talk face to face so that our joy may be complete (2 John 12). The pastor-elders of BLDG 28, as well as all staff members and several deacons, are present at all three worship gatherings each weekend, prepared to stir up the joy of Christ in each of you.
3. You need to focus your mind and your soul.
“Church online” (I much prefer this to “online church”) while on vacation or when ill is a gift. But rarely are we, as oft-distracted, constantly-bombarded suburbanites truly able to “lock-in” while curled up on our sleep pillow or chasing our kids around the house. The worship room as well as the live overflow are spaces specifically designed to engage your mind and inspire your soul. These are holy moments at a time given expressly to the Lord that all Christians should prize as often as possible.
4. You need “togetherness.”
You need to hear the church sing. Your voice was gifted you not just for the ears of God but for the ears of others (Colossians 3:16). Corporate worship is contagious, lifting the soul to the transcendent.
You need to converse with the saints around the text.
You need to be challenged by the saints in your pilgrimage.
You need community.
You need to serve.
You need “togetherness.”
You actually need this.
5. You need to set an example.
Your kids are watching. Your unsaved friends are watching. Your husband or your wife is watching. Your neighbors are watching. When we planted our flag with Jesus we invited the skeptical eyes of those around us. They are looking for signs of life. They are looking for true devotion. Will we fold to the god of convenience, corporate worship becoming a mere afterthought; or will we reveal through our example in conjunction with our declaration, that Jesus and His church are a priority in our lives? 2020 is a year in which so many are searching for reality. Will they see the reality of Jesus in your devotion?
There is much that can be done on and through a computer screen; there is also much that is lost. A father cannot raise a child through Zoom. A couple cannot build a marriage through Skype. At some point a follower of Jesus must see that true Christianity is not virtual but physical.
To our church (that’s you), I would strongly encourage you, as fears subside or recommitment grows to prioritize gathering with the church as the church. You need it. I need it.