The health concerns of 2020 have resulted in the widespread use of advanced virtual meeting technologies. Programs like Zoom have become nearly indispensable for many businesses and churches. At the height of the concern over COVID-19, most congregations of the church complied with the government’s recommendation that in-person gatherings be suspended. Presently, in-person gatherings are permissible as long as specific safety protocols are maintained. Since Christian gatherings were suspended temporarily, some wonder whether Christians really need to gather together at all. No doubt, the risk to health is more significant when you are with other people, so is it permissible to stay apart permanently? Do online gatherings effectively serve the needs of the church? When the intent of Christian gatherings is understood, the answer becomes clear.
If our gatherings were for the sole purpose of worshipping God, Christians would not need to be together, as anyone can worship God in any place. Jesus made this clear in John 4:20-24, during a conversation with a Samaritan woman. She asked concerning the appropriate location for worshipping God, and Jesus responded, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” He later continued by saying, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” Through those statements, Jesus announces that there are no restrictions on the location where worship may be offered to God under the New Covenant. If worshipping God were the sole purpose of Christian gatherings, being together in person would not be necessary. But offering worship is not the only purpose of Christian gatherings.
When Christians are together, they worship God. They study His Word. They pray. On the first day of the week, they eat the Lord’s Supper to remember His death on the cross. But there is an overarching purpose in doing all these things together. Paul identified this purpose in 1 Corinthians 14:26 by writing, “When you assemble…let all things be done for edification.” The writer of Hebrews put it this way, in Hebrews 10:24-25, “…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together…but encouraging one another…” Christians need to be together because that is the most effective way to strengthen each other. Nothing will ever be a better option for edification than meeting together, in person.
A Christian can do many godly things alone, but there is no better way to edify fellow Christians than to be together, in person, with them. Follow whatever safety protocols are suggested for the physical health of your brethren, but do not neglect the instruction of God for the spiritual health of your brethren. Meet together so that all may be edified.