The Advantage of Virtual Church

Article by   October 2008
It's fantastic John Piper normally preaches but also CJ Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, Terry Virgo and other greats. For the last 2 years I've been in charge of booking speakers and I've done a pretty good job in getting nothing but the best.  We have a variety of worship leaders Keith and Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend, Michael W Smith and even Graham Kendrick have performed for us.  We make sure we get them at their best, at the top of their game. No boring Sundays with just a piano, no out of tune neighbour putting you off - just tip top quality worship.

Our church meets at whatever time I choose. It allows me to fit it in around my schedule.  None of the guilt of feeling I should be there. My church lets me live my life the way I want.  It doesn't ask me to give of my time or my money. It gives me the best teaching and makes me feel I'm learning. And the best thing of all: I can even have my fill of church for a whole week without leaving my bed or having to be bothered by anyone.

You might say this is ridiculous. Who would ever really believe this? But it's a lot closer to home to the reformed church than we might think.

Iain Murray's latest book on Martyn Lloyd Jones makes a point about his view of preaching.

'he believed that the gospel preached in a worshipping church, and in a local setting, has an advantage over other situations. Here the preacher is not just one man addressing a crowd; he is part of a community of believers who are not onlookers; they are involved; they too are witnesses in whom the Holy Spirit is present.' (p15)

'sermons should be heard in the context of worship not listened to casually as one might listen to anything else' (p19)

We live in an unbelievably individualistic world, and this has not just crept into the church; it has run full steam in and is in danger of wiping us out.  Church is full of difficult people, people we don't naturally get on with each other, but that is the church for which Christ has died.  We neglect these people at our peril. It is the community of God's people that God meets with. Murray continues

'When this is a reality, the incomer is confronted by something that has no counterpart in the world - thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is in you of a truth (1 Cor 14:25 av). Something of eternity may be felt on such an occasion: 'Our coming together in public worship should be a foretaste of heaven'.(p15)

You just don't get that listening on your iplayer in the car or listening to sermons because you can't sleep.  We have adopted a celebrity culture in evangelicalism when conferences - or more accurately conference organisers - often feel they are the true barometer of Christianity in our culture.  If numbers are up at a conferences - 'Jubilation God is on the move' but if on the other hand numbers go down - 'people have lost their hunger for the gospel, a sad reflection on the church at this time'.  If 98% of conferences were got rid of would it make any difference?  Admittedly certain speakers would have a lot more time on their hands, but would the church suffer?

All the time the local church is bleeding because people have lost their commitment to the nitty gritty of church life.  Some are frustrated that their ministers aren't half as good as the ones they hear online. Of course the internet can be greatly used for the kingdom. Of course God has used the web ministries, but there is danger for us here.

I recognise there is a danger that we swing to the other extreme of not recognising gifted men and giants in the church. The speakers at many of these conferences are godly men doing a great work, but the danger remains. Local church can seem so dreary compared to the glamorous conferences. For us as ministers we can long to be on the bigger stage and get frustrated with the work that God has called us to do in the local church.

The church of Christ is the apple of Gods eye, the centre of what he is doing.  He cares passionately about our local church life. What goes on in your local church is infinitely more important that what goes on in any conference or any web ministry.  Don't be dazzled by the internet preachers or Christian celebrities.  Be amazed that you have been called to play your part in Gods new community - The church.

Paul Levy is the Minister of International Presbyterian Church, London.
 



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