In today’s culture, nearly everything can be done online. Church is no exception. Online church has created opportunities for many people to come to know and grow in their relationship with Christ that otherwise wouldn’t have been there. But, if you grew up in a traditional church setting, you have likely asked, “Is online church biblical?”
First, we have to define “church” according to the Bible.
What Is “Church” According to the Bible?
Many people think of church as a building. It is the place where…
- Sunday morning sermons are given
- Worship songs are sung
- Sunday school and Bible study classes are held
- Weddings ceremonies are conducted
But the biblical view of the church is not limited to these things. The Greek word for church is “ekklesia,” which means “an assembly,” as in “the assembly of the called-out ones.” The root of the word “ekklesia” is not related to a building or structure, but rather to people.
Ephesians 1:22-23 defines church for us.
- “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (emphasis added)
The church is the body of Christ, which is made up of all who have believed in Jesus since the day of Pentecost ( the birth of the church.)
- “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.”—Acts 2:1-5
The church is the body of Christ, which is all who placed their faith in Jesus for their salvation.
- “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”
What About the Local Church?
The apostle Paul also described the local church.
- “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me…”—Galatians 1:1-2 (emphasis added)
In Galatia, there were many “local churches.” In other words, believers in an area would gather, becoming the local “ekklesia.” But there were also many more groups of believers throughout the province of Galatia. Those who gathered in an area could be referred to as the local church or local assembly.
Now that we’ve defined what church is according to the Bible, we can better understand the intent, mission, and vision of online church.
How Do You Define Church?
We’ve looked at what the Bible says about church, but how do you define it? Often, we define church based on our own experiences, upbringing, and what we’ve been told about it. But it is important to always take these possible preconceived notions to the Word and test them against God’s truth.
If you’ve attended a traditional Christian church in the western world on a Sunday morning, you likely take part in worship, pay attention to the announcements, then listen to a sermon. The sermon usually begins with prayer. Then, at the close of the service, there is another moment of prayer and a wrap-up with a worship song.
This is what many are used to. However, with varying schedules and other reasons people cannot attend, where does that leave the person searching for truth? This is where online church enters the picture.
Online Church Fills a Gap
There are many reasons people choose to participate in online church…
- Conflicting schedules
- Moves (still want to attend the same church even though they’ve moved away)
- And many more
As it used to be, if you didn’t attend Sunday morning service, you missed out. But this is no longer the case. Furthermore, as more church is done online, resources are available to help you get more out of the sermon throughout the week.
Online church has flipped the idea of community within the body of Christ. Rather than a congregation expecting people to walk through their doors, the church has become aware of the need to “go out.” This doesn’t just include physically but also digitally. Because most everyone interacts online for a considerable portion of their day, the online church’s presence in this space allows for people looking for…
… To find them when they otherwise wouldn’t unless they entered a church building on Sunday morning. This is another way God is fulfilling the Great Commission through the body of Christ.
Community and the Online Church
We see the benefits of online church, but what about community? Attending online church services, participating in classes, listening to teachings, and finding studies and resources do not replace the need for community.
As you participate in online church, there will be more and more connections you can make online and in person. Online church gives you the opportunity to find others in your area that may be interested in a subject matter, and then you can meet and study the materials together.
God Is Not Limited
God is not limited in what He can do. Let us remember this truth.
- “For with God nothing will be impossible.”—Luke 1:37
Whether you attend an online church or an in-person church, the church does not change. Over time, buildings, how and where people meet, worship music, and many more elements associated with the church have changed, but the identity and mission of the church remain.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”—Hebrews 4:12