This is not a judgment against those of us who have stayed home, especially those vulnerable, for whatever period of time to protect ourselves from legitimate risk of contracting the Coronavirus. It is an attempt to exhort and encourage those of us who have concluded that participating virtually meets what God intends for the assemblies. While we may get to see the church worship and engage in Bible class and receive edification, we are missing quite a bit of what God designed for the church by assembling together.
What can’t we accomplish when we remain in the virtual setting?
We cannot stimulate one another to either love or good deeds (Heb. 10:24).
We cannot exhort one another (Heb. 10:25).
We cannot speak to, teach, or admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19).
We cannot come together and edify (1 Cor. 14:26).
We cannot welcome visitors from the community who have come to the assemblies.
We cannot engage in the enriching, faith-building, and faith-preserving fellowship the early church found so essential (Acts 2:42ff).
We cannot congregate, as they did (Acts 4:32).
We cannot come together and eat the Lord’s Supper, as they did (1 Cor. 11:20,33).
Let’s not forget the responsibility God puts upon each Christian to all others who assemble. Worship is not just personal and vertical, it is also horizontal.
I have some hobbies/passions that require caution: motorcycles, shooting, off-roading, auto mechanics. These are things that could be dangerous, but are enjoyable and safe if appropriate caution is used.
The reason any person would get on a motorcycle or under their vehicle or into a swamp or behind an optic is the reward associated with those activities. There’s no freedom like riding back roads or around beautiful scenery on a cruiser. Saving hundreds on auto repairs makes the effort worth it. Seeing how much mud/water/rock/terrain you can keep moving through is a blast. Racing the timer and improving consistency, all while hearing the satisfying “ding” of a steel target is exhilarating.
If an activity is enjoyable – potentially risky, but fun – we tend to do it anyway, with appropriate caution. Even those who don’t enjoy these kinds of activities are likely licensed drivers and are glad to assume the risks involved with driving (according to the WHO, 1.25 million die in a wreck worldwide every year, with an additional 20-50 million getting injured or disabled).
I cannot justify being willing to assume risks in many other aspects of my life, but cutting out the one aspect that impacts eternity. The CDC has accidents as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Most of us drive to go anywhere or do anything more than a mile or so away, and we do this without a second thought.
Even if Christian fellowship were the most dangerous activity possible (for many in the early church it was, for some today it might be), we should be willing to pursue it. We could never hope for a greater reward than we will receive for the risk we might assume when we come together as a church.