As we think of church, we have often equated it to a building. For many people it is the physical building where they go ‘to meet with God’. Bowed low, kneeling at an altar, people will ‘wait on God’. It is at the front of a beautifully adorned platform and sanctuary setting, complete with flowers and candles, that a man and woman pledge their love to one another before God and their witnesses. Many of us have done the little finger play with our hands clasped, index fingers together and pointed heavenward, while the rest of the fingers are intertwined, saying the words, “Here is the church, look at the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.” However, for the better part of 2020 the church has been empty. Regular attendees and welcomed guests have been required to leave the building.
However, the Lord’s Church isn’t a building, and this has never become more apparent than during the reality of COVID-19. These days we can see clearly how references made to the Church are becoming less and less about a physical structure and more about a defined gathering of people. Our new reality of moving forward as the Church during a global pandemic looks like everything from sitting at computer screens to holding hand-held devices and dialing in to an online platform to connect with others. It even looks like a small cluster of people socially distanced in a room or in a backyard or a front driveway or parking lot. Scripture reminds us that wherever people gather – that is the Church. Jesus Himself reminds us His Church is much different than a brick and mortar building. “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20, NKJV)
Southeast Hope Assembly in Calgary, Alberta went fully online in March 2020. The congregation made the switch to online viewing at the end of March along with many other churches across the country. The weekly services were uploaded to YouTube, Facebook, the church website and to Twitch. Unless you are under the age of 30 or an avid online video game player, you may not be familiar with the last online option noted. Twitch is the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers.
In a recent conversation with Violet Morgan, the church’s secretary/treasurer, as she was ordering her church supplies through Wordcom Christian Resources, she shared about the church’s recent engagement with those in the Twitch world. She is not sure how people on this gaming platform actually found out about the church and its online services, but it has been incredible to see almost 100 gamers tuning in regularly and watching the services online. There were more people tuning in via Twitch to hear the gospel messages than on a couple of the other social media platforms combined! Not only are they watching, but they are actively dialoging with the moderators. It is something they never would have imagined in making the move to online services, but they have been reminded that God is in control and He has all the resources of heaven and earth to accomplish His purposes!
Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and on earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all. (1 Chronicles 29:11, NIV)
With a quick glance at the cover art of many video games, it wouldn’t take a person too long to realize the violent nature and graphic content portrayed within. Gamers are notorious for ‘escaping’ for hours at a time into the fantasy and violence these games offer. If gamers are putting down the video controls and tuning into church services in this season where so much has gone online, we can be sure that God is up to something! And, He will use whatever He can to get the attention of people so by the power of His Spirit, many can be drawn to Him. May God continue to transform this online gaming community one life at a time!
If you aren’t familiar with that little finger play illustration noted in this article, check out this video: Here is the Church. The secondary part of this little illustration that maybe you weren’t quite as familiar with if you learned this exercise as a child is the part where it says, “Close the doors and listen to them pray, open the doors and they all walk away.” Interesting, in this pandemic season, there is much prayer and discipleship taking place in online and unconventional settings. The good news of Jesus is still advancing, even with closed or partially opened doors, and we have a part to play. When the doors of your church reopen and gathering restrictions lighten, where will you take the good news of Jesus? What is the unique “platform” that God is wanting you to influence so those who are distanced from Him right now will make a connection and draw close to His side? No physical distancing required!