Many people don’t know this, but before I was a pastor, I was kind of a geek. Since I was a disabled veteran, I could no longer thrive in competitive sports; in response, I started playing video games. I loved it so much that I even started a business in the early 2,000’s where people would come to my location just to play video games and have access to fast internet. What fun we had in my very own cyber café as I got paid to play video games for hours a day.
Surprisingly, that all ended when the Lord called me to ministry. In fact, part of the Lord’s will was for me to sell off my computers and move my family to go to college in Colorado. Many would argue that it was an unnecessary step to sell our house, leave everything and follow Him; yet, for me it was a vital step to go all in on where the Lord was leading us.
While in college, I learned that I was gifted to start churches. Yet my professors made it clear that the type of church I was called to start was an online church. Today, that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in 2011 it was a revolutionary concept that only a few were seeking after. The thought of connecting people online as a fellowship was a novel concept that I fully wanted to embrace. And I spent sometime developing a model to accomplish this. Strangely enough, God moved me away from the online church idea and provided a traditional church for me to pastor.
I am writing this today to share that even though online church may become the coolest thing since sliced bread and all of us geeks will love it, the concept of replacing real fellowship with online fellowship may be the gravest mistake ever made by the body of Christ. More importantly, most of us may not figure that out until our children have already made up their minds to walk away from the religious experience provided, as their faith is seen only through a magical box that leaves them unfilled and unsatisfied.
Online fellowships have a place and purpose. In fact, one of the main driving forces behind the first online churches was to provide fellowship for those in remote locations or for people that either by fear or by law could not gather in public life. Moreover, it was meant to be a tool of evangelism to reach gamers and others who could only be reached in an online setting. The concept of the online church helps those who can’t fellowship (in person) remain in the body of Christ as best they can or be introduced to Christ (reaching them where they are online). This is a healthy view of what online church should look like. It should be a tool to reach those who can’t come to church, not a substitute for in person relationships.
Authority is one of the primary issues that Satan targets when we choose to leave ministries that have hurt us or we feel the need to leave ministries that have changed the Gospel. It is only human to push away the things that cause us pain, yet spiritual authority is something that is vital to our spiritual walk. Like a father raising up a child, the child becomes a better adult for submitting to their father’s advice.
What we see today is that much of the body of Christ is no longer willing to submit to anyone outside Christ, yet in reality they cannot submit to Christ as He calls us to submit to our spiritual leaders. Oh, what a struggle this has become. Is it better to submit to a bad father or live your faith without a spiritual leader guiding you? I would argue that there is a third option.
The church is being sifted by the Lord. Everyone can see it. Denominations are splitting, millions are leaving broken church systems that focus on entertainment while appeasing the sinful culture. I get it… It is really hard right now to find a safe place to worship. And in reality, it is even harder to put the walls of our hearts down again and trust any pastor enough to love us and guide our walks with the Lord.
It isn’t about what is justified or who is right. The path Christianity is taking today will bring about a great fall as those who seek Christ separate their hearts from others (in the body) and place up barriers to protect their families from being hurt and from false truths. This runs completely opposite to what the concept of fellowship is all about. Relational intimacy is paramount in the body of Christ, yet we are all feeling this pull to separate and safeguard our faith. I tell you the truth, this response is not of God.
So, what is the other option. There is something more profitable than remaining under a false teacher or not allowing anyone to have spiritual authority in our lives. And that is to seek out or raise up true followers of God. We are here. There are many of us. We have already waded through the pains of leaving our denominational heritage and gathered once again to help those find true fellowship outside of the brokenness found in many of our churches.
If I, the geekiest pastor who was a pioneer of online church has been shown how destructive it will be for the body, would you be willing to at least pause and ask the Holy Spirit to give you guidance if that is where your family is headed. God has a plan for you and He needs you in the real world. I started a ministry in Bock and you can’t believe how many people love the concept of what we are trying to do, yet no one seems to have enough conviction to further the Kingdom with us even as they seem to live only a few miles away.
The Lord has need of you. If you are no longer physically attending a fellowship each week, I urge you to give our small fellowship a try. And what you will find is that when you take all the money out of church and leave the structures of organizational power at the door, all that remains is a group of people that gather to worship a Holy God and come to be fed by uncompromised preaching. We know you are hurt. We understand that is hard for you to trust again. But I pray that ministries like ours can become a safe place to reintroduce families to the intimacy and peace found in joyful fellowships.
I was once a pioneer of the online church concept, now I humbly seek to save families the grief of what will take place over the next few years for those that are enticed by it’s convenience. Oh how easy it will be to persecute millions of online Christians. How easy it will be to pull a plug and scatter the flocks. Wake up, o sleeper, Christ is approaching. Don’t follow the crowds. Seek after the Kingdom, even if that means submitting and remaining vulnerable.