I was listening to the Jimmy’s Table podcast this morning as he interviewed a local Charlotte, NC pastor. They discussed the recent wave of Facebook Live and other video/streaming church services and that brought up a few questions. Will church members go back to church when this is all over? Why send tithes to a church in your city when you could watch a live stream or listen to a podcast from a pastor anywhere?
Here is my response to why we need to go back to church.
It’s not because I need to get paid. The number of bivocational pastors in the SBC doubled between 1998 and 2004, from 10,000 to over 20,000. Bivocational refers to church pastors that work another job outside the church. That’s a strange and alien concept to some but in small country churches, pretty much the only kind I’ve ever known as a member or a pastor, it’s been the norm for a long time. My readers know that a few months ago I took a part-time job at Kroger. I’ve been working full time hours for the past couple of weeks even as church meetings and services have been postponed indefinitely. I could make more money in retail than pastoring a church and upload videos or podcasts in my spare time. I taught school for nine years and have been pastoring for nearly six. If my goal in life was to make a lot of money I would have chosen a different career path. Even so, pastors needing income is not why church members need to come back to church.
Church members need each other. Local churches connect families and neighbors. The four men carrying their friend to Jesus to be healed was brought up on during that Jimmy Humphrey interview I mentioned. Any Christian believer should be able to explain to another person what Jesus has done for them. But bringing your friends with you to church introduces them to the pastors, teachers and ministry leaders that have meant so much to you. The Samaritan woman at the well went out and told everyone about Jesus and they came to see for themselves. Andrew introduced his brother Simon (Peter) to Jesus; Philip brought Nathaniel. Think about Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus. They had sent for Jesus when their brother became ill. He comforted them and talked about faith and the resurrection before he called Lazarus out of the grave.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -Hebrews 10:24-25
The local church is the body of Christ. It’s members form a familial unit as brothers and sisters in Christ. They are commanded not only to love one another but to build each other up and encourage good works. It’s a dynamic that benefits everyone in the group. We need to return to church when it is safe to do so because we need Sunday School classes, small groups, potlucks, choir practices, men’s softball teams and teens playing basketball on Wednesday nights. Social distancing is tough because we are social creatures by nature. Worship is not a spectator sport but something we are meant to do together.
A pastor is more than a good preacher. Preaching is one aspect of what pastors do. One of the best pastors I ever knew personally was not my favorite preacher to listen to. He was very mission minded and nurturing of young preachers in his congregation and we loved being part of that church family. You can watch a YouTube video or listen to a podpastor in California or Australia. But who will you call when you need a pastor? Who will visit you and your family in this hospital? Who will answer your questions when life doesn’t make sense or you question your faith? You can’t download pastoral care.
Stay inside and away from others… for now. Pray for your family, friends and neighbors. When this thing is over and life returns to “normal” we need to meet up at church. Not to pay the bills or plan the church calendar. We need to meet together as members of one body with Christ as the head.