Does Online Church Violate Hebrews 10:25?

"First, I praise God that Christians would ask this question. We should never take scriptural commands lightly, and Hebrews 10:25 is one, unfortunately, that many Christians often overlook. The question arises from a heart serious about God’s Word, serious about obedience, and serious about worship. So, are we sinning? In short, no, and for five main reasons." - TGC

2023 reads

There are 7 Comments

JNoël's picture

This is a helpful article. Definitely going to share with friends.

Side note: am I the only person still looking for number 5 ("So, are we sinning? In short, no, and for five main reasons.")?

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Kevin Miller's picture

I think a lot of us, myself included, might be breaking this command even when we meet together. Isn't the positive part of the command to "be stirring up one another to love and good works" and to be "encouraging one another"? If I just come to sit in the service, sing songs, listen to the message and then go home, have I really stirred up others or intentionally encouraged them? Oh, often I'll chat a bit with others, but I'm not sure how encouraging I am.

pvawter's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

I think a lot of us, myself included, might be breaking this command even when we meet together. Isn't the positive part of the command to "be stirring up one another to love and good works" and to be "encouraging one another"? If I just come to sit in the service, sing songs, listen to the message and then go home, have I really stirred up others or intentionally encouraged them? Oh, often I'll chat a bit with others, but I'm not sure how encouraging I am.

That may be true, but we're pretty good at provoking one another and thus obeying v.24.

Smile

ScottS's picture

  1. By choosing not to meet, it is automatically a willful neglect (i.e. a forsaking). Christians are not locked up in prison, so it is still a willful choice not to meet (even if that willful choice is to obey the government's request).
  2. It is not true that churches are unable to meet. In most cases (seems like there have been some exceptions), the government has not locked up all the church goers, nor set up stakeouts to make sure people don't meet together for worship. Rather, there are possible consequences (legal, physical) to meeting; so again, it goes back to a choosing not to (per #1).
  3. Submitting to governing authorities when the authority is asking for something that is a direct violation of what God has said is not glorifying to God. So attempting to force churches to not assemble is clearly a direct violation (no matter the cause); asking churches to not assemble would still be seeking a violation of God's call to assemble, but would at least give some latitude to churches to make decisions about if/when/how/why to assemble (how long does one go between assemblies and not violate this rule? The believers, not the government, need to determine that.).
  4. This call to love the neighbor is the "best" of his arguments (since the other three don't really hold up well), but here is where individual soul liberty (which my generally Baptist beliefs holds to) indicates that each believer needs to (1) determine if they want to put themselves/family at risk by assembling, (2) determine if they want to be responsible for spreading of the virus or not (should they have it unknowlingly), and (3) how to go about that assembly in a safe manner if it occurs. So in short, it is a loving act if people choose, for a time, to stay home (for self and others' protection), but it is also a loving act if people choose to gather together, informed of the risks, but desiring the fellowship and edification that Scripture calls for. Which loving act is correct should be left to believers as an individual choice, not the government's choice.

So in my mind, assuming it is truly the individual believer's choices to not assemble for the sake of preservation of life (theirs and/or others), for a time, then it is not sin. But neither is it sin if they choose to assemble (all who so "risk" the consequences).

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's important to watch for assumptions on this. Assumed: video conferencing is not meeting.

But this is really the fundamental question and can't be assumed. If everybody seeing and hearing and interacting with one another at the same time is not "meeting," (or "assembling") what is it? If it's not a meeting, why not?

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

JNoël's picture

I think it would be interesting if the pandemic caused churches everywhere to revert to the way things may have been like in the 1st century.

Imagine:

  • Church finances without the exponentially growing costs of the building, utilities, maintenance, janitorial services, pavement, signage, lighting, audio-visual, landscaping, etc.
  • “Ministry” simplification – no more staffing needs for every children’s program/nursery; no more hours of production planning for music programs, etc.
  • Back-to-basics focus on personal interaction, where Christians exercise their spiritual gifts and where the elder/bishop/pastor can focus on his ministry of the Word and prayer instead of the obligation of running the church like a business where “vision” and “planning” tend to take center stage

I think a lot of us (three fingers pointing back at myself) are experiencing adjustments in our thinking of what “church” even means. I don’t go to church, I am the church – I and all of those believers with whom I enjoy fellowship as often as we are able to assemble. I yearn to assemble as a whole body again, but, while we wait, I enjoy the weekly shared video conferencing, the one-way exposition of the Bible via live-streaming, and the one-on-one phone calls, e-mails, and other ways we can interact in the 21st century that were inconceivable in the 1st century. They may have met daily, but we also can meet daily, in different ways.

That central meeting place, the building where my church meets, really is nothing more than a building. It costs far too much money in comparison to the money spent on actual ministry (a building isn’t a very good minister) – that of the occupational leaders who are worthy of pay and of the missionaries who are doing the same as an extension of us.

We need some leaders to pioneer a 21st century application of Hebrews 10:25. I'm not saying there shouldn't be a central gathering place large enough for a couple hundred people or more, but maybe I am. . . I don't know. I'm still chewing on this. The pandemic may very well be the best way to set in motion a true revival – where Christians understand the proper application of what it means to gather together, worship, learn, encourage, exhort, rebuke, and stir up one another to live great commission lives.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)