by Peter Larson
Senior Pastor, Lebanon Presbyterian Church (Lebanon, Ohio)
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1).
When will you come back to worship?
Some of you are back already. Some are waiting for a vaccine. Some will not come back unless masks are required. Some will not come back until COVID-19 has ended completely.
When will you come back to worship? As your pastor, I can’t make that decision for you. It depends on your age, health, and personal level of safety and caution. If you are live-streaming worship that is okay—you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
However, my real concern is that some people may not come back at all. In general, if people are out of the church for a long time, they don’t come back. After six months, the “habit” of worship begins to fade. People feel disconnected and disengaged. In the wake of COVID-19, many experts predict a long-term shift in church attendance.
I am extremely grateful that our church has been able to live-stream worship. In many ways, it has helped us to stay connected with the Lord and with each other. I hear this especially from our homebound members. For all of us, the livestreaming technology has been a lifeline and a blessing.
The danger, however, is that technology will take the place of live worship. If I can worship in the comfort of my own home, why bother going to church? If I can get the same content on my tablet or television, isn’t that more efficient and convenient?
For many people, digital church is no different than working remotely or shopping online.
However, the church is the family of God. Worship is more than just content or a convenience—it is something we do together. At the heart of worship is our love for God and for each other. There are many things we can do remotely, but love is not one of them!
Imagine if I said to my wife, “Beth, instead of going on a date with you, we will connect on Zoom!” If I said that to Beth, she would begin to doubt my love for her. Why? Because if you love someone, you want to see and be with them. A Zoom call doesn’t cut it.
Right now, we are missing each other, and that is a good thing. If we stop missing each other, it means our love for God and for each other is growing cold. If we love each other, we long to be together.
When will you come back to worship? It may be weeks or months. In the meantime, I pray that technology will not take the place of relationships.
Your servant in Christ,
Originally published in the October 2020 “Chronicle” newsletter of Lebanon Presbyterian Church. Reprinted by permission.