Originally written on June 17, 2017
We are living in different times. This is the Internet Age. Everything is online. I mean everything.
When God revealed to the prophet Daniel that in the end times “knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4), He wasn’t joking. It is definitely a sign of the times.
I watched an interview recently of a 70-year-old billionaire who explained that anyone today who is ambitious to become rich is living in the best time in history to do so simply because of the unlimited wealth of information available today that is just one click away. He explained that the information that took him many years to painstakingly attain in order to get to where he is today can now be accessed by any young person in a matter of seconds due to the Internet. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
The same can almost be said about religious information. We no longer need a library card, a 20 volume encyclopedia set, and hours of time set aside to search for the info that we need. We can go to You-tube and find what we’re looking for in a 5 minute or less video. This type of convenience and advantage can be both a blessing and a curse. Case in point: Internet churches.
Remember the house church movement? It’s not very old. Yet I have a feeling that that fad will soon be replaced with an even newer fad known as the so-called Internet church. I just read today about an “internet church” of which you join by filling out an online form. You are instructed to tithe to this online church. And you are encouraged to send in your prayer requests via email. The internet Pastor will in turn pray for you and post videos and audio on the internet of many sermons and Bible studies for you to peruse at your convenience. Folks online are setting up these so-called Internet churches as an alternative for shut ins and folks who have no access to a good local (physical) congregation.
Now on the surface this may not seem as necessarily a bad thing. And let me add that I am not against using the technological resources of today, such as social media, to aid in the ministry as well as to promote the truth. The internet can be a wonderful tool to get the Gospel out. I’m in favor of using any reasonable medium to propagate biblical truth.
When I was a missionary on the foreign field, I found Facebook to be a great blessing for my ministry. Prior to the rise of the internet, churches would only hear from their missionaries every 2 to 3 months via a prayer letter. Today, you can keep up with our ministry on a daily basis through social media. I could only fit but so much in a one page prayer letter (that many won’t even read). But now I can post pictures, updates, reports, opinions, messages, and even video clips pertaining to our ministry on a daily basis. And everyone online will check those out. Missionaries can now keep in touch with friends, family, and supporters consistently from the other side of the world. That’s a blessing!
However, as unlimited as the Internet and social media may appear to be regarding communication (which is important), it is not truly unlimited. That brings me to my point concerning the problem with Internet churches.
The Internet church may seem like a neat and convenient concept. But it can NEVER replace a true, God-ordained, biblically established, local congregation, and here’s a few reasons why.
1. An Internet church cannot baptize you. (Matthew 28:19)
2. You cannot observe the Lord’s supper with an Internet church. (1st Corinthians 11:23-34)
3. The Internet Pastor will not visit you in the hospital or at your home to pray with you face-to-face in your time of need (James 5:13-16).
4. Unless he is willing to travel and you’re willing to pay for his ticket, the Internet Pastor cannot conduct weddings and funerals.
5. You cannot have much needed fellowship with an Internet church. You might be able to have an online chat via Skype, communicate on Facebook, or exchange emails with an Internet Pastor (and those means can be beneficial), but none of those means can offer you the benefits that comes with being able to personally fellowship and engage real people in real life.
6. There is no accountability for the people nor for the Internet Pastor at the Internet church. What if the Internet church member is a pervert, a criminal, a child molester, etc? What if the Internet Pastor is? How will accountability and church discipline be handled (Matthew 18:15-17, 1st Corinthian 5)? You can pretty much live any way you want (like the devil if you wish) and do whatever you want to if you’re part of an Internet church? But is that what Christ intended when He established the church? It’s a little harder to get away with certain things when you’re part of a local church. Things eventually get figured out. Eventually.
7. The Internet church will not be able to offer you many opportunities to serve in church functions, activities, and evangelistic outreach as a church.
8. The Internet church may have a prayer session online, which is good, but it cannot replace that special time a local assembly experiences in the Lord when the church prays together corporately.
9. Should God call you to the mission field or to start a church, how will you be ordained with the laying on of hands and then sent out by the elders of the church as was practiced in Acts chapter 13?
I could go on and on. (Feel free to add your own points to this list in the comment section.) When Jesus said “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”, He was not referring to an online chat room session or a You-Tube video. I understand that God does not dwell in temples made with hands and that we can worship Him (and we should) anywhere. However, there is something special about when the saints gather together in the name of the Lord for the purpose of worshipping Him, praying together, fellowshipping one with another, and learning more of Him. The Internet church simply cannot compete with what a true, physical, Bible-believing, local assembly has to offer.
God expects Christians to go to church. Unless you have some sort of physical limitation health-wise, there is no excuse for not going to church. The Bible commands it.
Hebrews 10:25 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
Replacing a local congregation and a God-called, ordained Pastor with an Internet Pastor and a bunch of You-Tube videos is inexcusable.
Here’s perhaps the biggest problem I have with the concept of the Internet church. Fakeness! I know an individual who started one of these Internet churches. Here’s what I know about him. The reason why he started an Internet church is because he could not establish a real church in the real world. Now this brother is a pretty good Bible teacher. But here’s why he could never get a real church established in the real world. His ability to handle and engage people in real life STINKS.
You see, to be a Pastor of a church, you have to be more than just a good Bible teacher. You can have tons of biblical knowledge, but to have any amount of success in actually ministering to people in real life, you have to be able to put the Bible you know into practice in your personal dealings with people. You can make yourself to appear as anything you want behind a computer screen. But in order to fulfill 1 Corinthians 13, Galations 6:1, Romans 12:4-21, and a bunch of other passages, you have to be able to engage people in real life.
Anyone, who has a little Bible knowledge, can get behind a camera and spout out what he knows. Internet theologians are a dime a dozen nowadays. And he may even do a good job of disseminating good Bible information. That’s great! But if he lacks the ability to minister to people OUTSIDE of the pulpit (or in this case from behind the camera or computer screen), he is not Pastor material.
Proverbs 25:14 “Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.”
Some folk’s people skills are so horrible, yea non-existent, that if it wasn’t for You-Tube, blogs, and websites, these self-proclaimed Internet Pastors would have no “ministry”. It is easier to fool people that you are something that you are not from behind a computer screen. But in the real world, around real people, on a consistent basis, not so much. In real life, the people who are around you consistently will eventually figure you out. That is when your ability to pastor and lead will be put to the test. No such test exists for the Internet Pastor.
A true pastor is a leader. He must convince his people that his leadership is worth following. Yes I know we are supposed to follow the Lord above all. I’m not talking about that. Paul said “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1st Corinthians 11:1)
The test of leadership is influence. It’s easy to get people to follow you online. That only requires a click of a mouse. But to get people to have confidence in your leadership as their pastor in real life requires a whole lot more. I am much more impressed by the faithful pastor who consistently averages 50 in attendance at the local assembly than the Internet Pastor with 50,000 followers on YouTube that he has never met in real life.
God gave Pastors. (Ephesians 4:11, Jeremiah 3:15) Not Internet ones. Real ones in real life.
And God’s people are told to follow and to even obey these Pastors that He called and sent them.
Hebrews 13:17 “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
How do you fulfill that verse in an Internet church?
At any rate and as stated before, please understand that I am not against using the Internet to get good information out there. Use it to get the Gospel and God’s word out as much as possible! In fact, I appreciate churches that have websites and post their services online. But be careful not to replace reality and the things God ordained in real life with a fake cyber world. A preacher said one time, “You can’t digitally record the Holy Spirit”. Think about that.
The fake Internet church can be another trap that will diminish your spiritual life if you’re not careful. I’m not saying that everyone preaching on the internet is bad (I have stuff online also). I’m just encouraging you to exercise discernment (Hebrews 5:14). The Internet, social media, and modern technology can be a huge blessing. But it can also be a great curse.
Proverbs 22:3 “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.”