During these challenging times, I believe many are struggling with different things — anxiety over finances, concern for loved ones, frustration at not being able to work, sadness over cancelled plans or just plain cabin fever — but we can take heart that our sovereign Lord is in control and is working things out for our good and for his glory. Strange as it may seem this crisis is part of his grand scheme to make us holy and honour his name. We just can’t see or understand what he’s doing, exactly. How can we be sure of his love and care? “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32, NIV).
In view of the current crisis, we'll be streaming our Sunday worship service at 10:30 AM for the next few weeks. While we’re grateful that technology allows us to stream our service, we recognize that technology can have unintended consequences for the way we perceive worship. For example, because we can choose from multiple services on the basis of our preferences, streaming can foster (or worsen) a consumeristic, self-centred approach to worship.An online service doesn’t capture the physical presence involved in corporate worship. So it’s hard to call our online service a “worship service.” That being said, we believe that God has provided us these capabilities to use wisely, and that the Holy Spirit can work through flawed means. Here are a few suggestions on how to minimize the lack of physical presence in streaming our service:
Pray that the Holy Spirit would enable you to focus on God and his word as you stream the service.
Minimize distractions to maximize attention. Prepare yourself for worship. (If you have to dress up in your regular church-going attire to get yourself in worship mode, go ahead.)
Stream our service together with the people in your household as much as possible.
Participate fully — sing and read with us. You will feel awkward and uncomfortable, but that’s fine. You’ll get used to the weird feeling. Let the awkwardness make you long for the real thing (embodied worship).
Engage the message by asking questions in the chat box. We’ll take the time to answer your questions after the message.
Discuss the message with the people in your household afterwards. If you’re by yourself, call or message someone in the church. Better yet, have a video conference with two or three brethren.
I hope these action steps would be helpful. If you come across other ways that help you participate better, please feel free to share them. Moving forward, we’d like to encourage our small groups to meet by videoconference. We’re also working on setting up a prayer meeting by videoconference and we’ll send you details once we’ve figured them out. I’ll also start posting daily devotions on Monday (once I’m officially back from sabbatical) on our church YouTube account (Living Hope Baptist Church). In the meantime, we’ll keep our prayer chain going. Grace and peace,
PRJ (Pastor RJ)