7 Reasons Why Online Church Can't Replace In Person Church

On March 11, 2020 the Coronavirus Disease, COVID-19, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. On March 13, 2020 a national emergency was declared in the United States concerning the COVID-19 Outbreak.

With this has come many changes that have effected the church. 

In my opinion, the biggest change has been not being able to meet together in person. 

The vast majority of churches have went online and it has forced so many of us to rethink how we do church services.  Before the pandemic arrived, I could count on one hand the number of churches who offered online children's ministry services.  Now every church I know of has online services and experiences for kids.  It has been amazing watching churches respond with online engaging, relevant content for kids and parents.

And most of the churches I talk with are going to continue offering both adult and children's services online.  I believe we will look back one day and see that this pandemic caused a majority of churches to go online and stay online.

Online offers so many ways to connect with today's families and it makes sense.  We are living in an increasingly digital world where doing and attending online is a viable option.  And offering the services "on demand" fits right into our culture of instant gratification.  Will "church" become a "Netflix" church where people can choose from week to week what they want to watch?

Yes.  The Gospel can be spread online. 

Yes.  People can grow spiritually using online materials. 

Yes.  You can pray together with other believers online.

But, with that being said, here are 7 reasons why church online will never completely be able to replace meeting together in person.

Reason One - personal discipleship happens most effectively when you are with other believers. 

We are called to...

"Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”   Matthew 28: 19-20

These are all things that need to happen in person.  Baptism happens publicly.  Obeying and living out the commandments of Jesus happens publicly. 

Reason Two - Corporate Worship We need to worship in person with other believers.  Worship online is a good thing, but it can't compare to being surrounded by a group of other believers who are worshiping.  Jesus inhabits the praise of His people.  We were meant to worship together. 

Solo no. 

Choir yes. 

This is a warm up activity to prepare us for the day when we will all meet together to worship Jesus.

One area that does concern me is parents won't feel the "good pressure" to attend church in person.  One father said before the children's online services started happening, he would often go to church because it was the only way he saw his child learn about the Bible.  But with the addition of online services for kids, the pressure to attend in person has lightened.  Now when he doesn't feel like attending in person, he can hand his child a tablet to watch the online children's services.

Don't get me wrong, I am so thankful for all the churches that have dedicated the time and money it takes to create online services for kids.  Any most of the churches I consult with say they will continue to provide online services for kids after the pandemic has been controlled.

It will be interested in seeing how this plays out.  Will some families switch over to all online services?  Maybe.  Will online services  be enough to keep kids' attention?  Will churches have the fiances, people and bandwidth to continue offering online services? 

Reason Three - Relationships.  It is through relationships that discipleship happens. It is through relationships that spiritual growth happens.  It is through relationships that people are able to grasp the unending love of Jesus. 

Every child needs someone who will look them in the eyes and say their name.  Someone who can pray with them.  Someone who can challenge them.  Someone they feel comfortable enough with to share what 's going on in their life.

Reason Four - Accountability.  We were not meant to walk alone.  We need other believers who can look us in the eyes and hold us accountable.  We need other believers that will ask us the hard questions and help us stay on course.  

Reason Five - Serving togetherThe biggest impact happens when believers serve with other believers.  Serving Jesus wasn't meant to be done solo.  When you lock arms with other believers, you become so much stronger.

Reason Six - Giving together.  Great things happen when believers gather their funds together.  A single tithe can make an impact.  But when you gather your tithes together toward a project it can make a huge impact.

Here's an example of this - Many churches are doing a $1 challenge.  Everyone is challenged to give $1 dollar toward making an impact in someone's life.  When you put all of the dollars together, it gives you the finances you need to help change someone's life. 

Reason Seven - The presence of Jesus.  Look what He says about worshiping and serving together.

"For where 2 or 3 are gathered together in My name, I am in the midst of them."
Hebrews 10:25

Notice that it says you should gather with a minimum of 2 people.  And I believe when He's referring to gathering, He is talking about gathering in person.

"There's something special that happens when you gather
with other believers.  Jesus shows up." 

Maybe that's why the author of Hebrews said this.

"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another,
especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."
Hebrews 10:25

And when Jesus shows up, it changes everything.

Your turn. Do you think online church can or can't replace in person church?  I realize that most of the points I mentioned above could also happen online.  But the bigger question is "Can it be as effective as in person church?  What can and cannot be transferred to online? Share your thoughts and insight in the comment section below.