I saw Randy’s blog post Prioritize Your Local Church: Don’t Just Be a Highly Online Christian. I live in a very rural area, and my favorite church is located in another state, so online was/is ideal for me. I have not found any local church that has the depth and consistency of teaching and ministry this church does.
Also, during the height of the pandemic, a minister of a church I was part of many years ago held online teachings, and I was so blessed to be learning from him again during that time and to reconnect, even though I was over 120 miles away.
My husband passed away earlier this year. My parents came recently to visit, and together we watched my service, and then we watched their service when it streamed. It was a blessing to be able to share each other's churches together that way.
I respectfully disagree with the opinion that online worship and teaching/preaching is necessarily bad or inadequate. It has served me and my family very well, and God met us where we were physically watching from.
If I found a local church that could fulfill me as well as what I have been getting from streamed services, I would attend. But with my husband being gone to Heaven now, I don't want to drive an hour each way to go to a larger church or not necessarily larger, but one that offers more to meet my spiritual needs.
I am also attending a virtual Bible-based grief support group, which is extremely helpful. It is hosted by a church in a town that is over an hour each way from here, and I can't drive well after dark, so it is a Godsend to me that they offer these sessions virtually. Otherwise, I would not have that Christian focused grief support.
Does this make me “chaff,” as someone else commented on Randy’s Facebook?
I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your husband this year and the grief you must be experiencing. No, I don’t believe you are “chaff,” and neither does Randy. Your heart to know the Lord comes through in your post. I'm also so glad that you're able to attend that support group virtually.
I think probably the biggest hurdle with watching a church in another state is that those believers don’t know your name, and therefore can’t bring you meals, can’t visit you, can’t phone you to check on you, can’t invite you out to coffee or over to a meal, may not even know of your loss and grief. As you know, being part of a church is more than watching (or even attending) a service.
Since distance and driving are an understandable issue, how about attending your local church even if it doesn’t meet your deepest spiritual needs? It may not meet the rich teaching you are getting elsewhere but it could very well meet the need of fellowship and enrichment. And you have something to offer them as well. You may be surprised at what God could do for you and through you in the local church.
I can only imagine how difficult attending a church without your spouse would be, so I don’t minimize that, nor the driving to get to church. That’s tough. But I keep going back to the piece of needing face to face fellowship.
I asked Randy about your situation and he had these thoughts:
It doesn’t have to be either/or, it could be both/and. It is possible to be connected to a truly local church to attend it in person if possible, or if you’re not able to attend in person, to connect face-to-face during the week with people, including a pastor, who are actually part of that church, as Nanci and I have done for this last year and a half where we’ve only been together in church three times. But we’ve seen many church people and had meaningful spiritual interactions with them throughout this time, so that when we watch it online on the weekend, we are truly a part of the church even in the less than ideal situation due to Nanci’s health.
We have also watched other churches services that we greatly benefit from. Some of the best preaching we get is from our son-in-law Dan Franklin and his church in Southern Cal. If you could connect with a local church AND still watch online that church you love, there is no contradiction between those two.
See also Randy’s comments in the article What If I’m Too Ill to Attend Church?
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.