Is Online Worship as Good as It Seems?


The COVID-19 reality is that most Christians do not go to the sanctuary. Instead, many worship via an online service or at the family level, where they cannot face pastors and saints in person. In fact, many sense the inevitable move to accept this reality with signs of prolonged social distance and stay-at-home campaigns.

Therefore, one cannot help but ask whether online worship is desirable and the only solution to worship in this era. In other words, we should seriously consider what kind of ultimate benefits believers have through online worship using computers or smart phones. In conclusion, I am so worried about the reality that our worship is easily secularized by the worldly media through science and technology just because it is a dangerous pandemic situation.

The necessity of online worship

Looking at the trend of COVID-19 spreading these days, the churches prefer online worship because it can protect their member's physical safety and health first. This is good news for those who are older, suffering from chronic diseases, or who say that it is difficult to visit the church on a regular basis. In particular, it is also persuasive to prepare for online worship services in preparation for difficult situations that may lead to a breakaway from offline worship. Furthermore, churches who did not have an easy time finding suitable places for worship due to various circumstances, prefer online worship as an alternative.

This is what Teresa Berger says in her book Worship: Literary Practices in Digital Worlds about the need for online worship. She argues that online worship can be a 'real network' that can continue worship in emergency or exceptional situations, not virtual or fictional like the tone given by the word 'cyber.' She was able to emphasizes the advantages of online worship as an alternative to such exceptional circumstances that we cannot afford.

If you look at this view point in detail, God is an omnipresent person who exists in cyber space and is worshipped as we are, regardless of the reverence of worship. Especially those who insist on the need for online worship highlight the positive aspects of digital worship, citing the following reasons: First, we can maximize audio-visual effects by combining advanced technology and science in worship. Second, given the current trend of fighting time for everybody, they think it is necessary to use time efficiently rather than being tied up in the space of the sanctuary. Third, we can easily spread the Words, prayers, and praise toward unrestricted places through portable or mobile devices.

The problem of online worship

Thinking about online worship, the first question comes to mind is whether spiritual exchange of the saints experienced in traditional worship can be possible. Can it be possible to complete the Koinonia through the intercourse with God and the intercourse between the saints, which the church has been able to maintain life since the early church? Worship should also be given with the Spirit and the truth, but there should be devotion, passion, and sacrifice through praise, prayer, and offerings too. This is why I deeply worry that online worship will be reduced to passive worship rather than active worship through the participation of worshipers.

The daily lives of believers who gather at home and worship through the Internet in real time are no longer unfamiliar. In that sense, I think that online worship can only be reduced to 'watching worship' rather than 'devoting worship.' Above all, if you focus on the pastor's sermon at online service, you will not be able to escape from the position of a very passive worshiper who is limited to receive the Words through audio-visual media.

There is a basic element in worship, which is the gathering of the congregation together and holy encountering with God on the appointed day, following the guidance of the pastors. Of course, our service should be able to represent unity, holiness, universality, and apostasy. However, it is hard to be confident that online worship through computers or smart phones can meet the nature of these services. In fact, the idea is that worship must be fulfilled by the congregation, the priests for the Words and the sacrament as a core of worship service, but is this possible in cyber space?

New paradigm for worship service

The most important thing about our service is what attitude is given to it rather than the worship itself. I hope that the online worship taken by the church due to the pandemic COVID-19 is not a worship of human-oriented that compromises with the reality.

We need to renew the attitude of worshippers through the one showed by Daniel in hard and difficult environments. He was taken captive to Babylon and went to God three times a day at a set time—even in an environment where he could not worship at all. "Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before."

Point Church: Daniel clearly suggests a desirable paradigm of the church. His house was the point church as where he stays was the place of worship. The worship place should be the home as well as the place of life where we stay. Remember that where two or three people gather in the name of the Lord, He is with us, and each of us should always prepare for worship as a priest at the point church.

Underground Church: Through the difficulties of the COVID-19, we are experiencing the beginning of the time of tribulation that will come to the saints. Therefore, we have to prepare for the hardships that will come to our lives, and we have to worship with the spirit of martyrdom shown by the early church members who hid in the basement of Catacombs. In other words, we should be able to be prepared as an underground church to worship with the devotion of the last worship on this land since we do not know the end time of our own lives.

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