The Joy and Blessings of Churches Worshiping Corporately Online

"Last Sunday, as my family settled into our couch to watch our church’s online worship service, I was simultaneously saddened and filled with joy. ...This is not the way this is supposed to be, I thought. Like all of creation, I groaned for King Jesus to return and undo the bonds of corruption, granting the full and final freedom of the glory of the children of God." - John Ellis

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Paul J's picture

Our church does an amazing job of creating an engaging Environment each weekend.  I'm so appreciative of this opportunity but it does make me long for when we come back together.  I wonder if the people of these churches are finding another place to connect and will be gone as this season ends and they've become engaged at another church.


John E.'s picture

I hadn't really thought about it, but that's a good question, Paul. If my family were attending a church that refused to hold online services, I could imagine scenarios during this time where I found the pastoral care from the online pulpit of another church compelling, edifying, and an encouragement and a reason to move our membership once this season is over. I say that to say that although I'm not a fan of "church hopping," as a general rule, I don't know if I'll find fault with those who move their membership from a church whose pastors refuse to hold online services to a church whose pastors seek to care for the flock via online worship services.

TylerR's picture


The Bible Presbyterians across the street aren't doing church online. They feel church isn't church unless the congregation can actually gather. So, they recommend that their congregation ... watch Alistair Begg's livestream on Sundays.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry Nelson's picture

We appear to have at least 50% more people watching us online (Facebook or YouTube) during the past three weeks than our normal weekend attendance.  Who are these additional people?  Are they people who are watching services from more than one church?  People who are watching our services because their church (at least as of yet) isn't providing online services?  We're not sure.

Mark_Smith's picture

I don't know if I should say this since it is so embarrassing. I do not know the official numbers. I just know what Youtube said the viewing numbers were last Sunday for my church's service (I am not the pastor or on staff so I do not have access to the internal numbers.)... It fluctuated between 3 and 4. Yes, you read that correctly. We are a church of 500+. That was the number Youtube said was watching it live.

John E.'s picture

Besides streaming on YouTube, could someone from your church also be streaming it on Facebook live or another platform? Our church offers 3 options to watch the livestream. Members of our church, including my family, appear to prefer Facebook live over YouTube. The view count for Facebook swamps Youtube's. 

Larry's picture


Remember, these counts are not actually people watching the whole thing. And they are not people paying attention. 

For instance, Facebook will count in various ways including those who watch for three seconds which is basically scrolling by with autoplay on. You can get more data from Facebook if you look at the post info as an admin of the page.

My guess is that, overall, fewer people are actually watching with attention. People might tune in for a few seconds here or there. They might watch for a bit and then turn to something else (particularly guests). They might have it on in the background while they surf the internet for other stuff.

Overall, I would not put much if any stock in the numbers on this. At the end of the day, church is assembly of people who meet together. People who make a habit of watching online and avoiding the assembly are not really part of the church. Obviously we are not talking about those unable to come because of health or work. i speak specifically of those who avoid the assembly.

These are extraordinary times to be sure and I have no problem with livestreaming. We are doing it. But I caution against calling it a full worship service because it isn't. It is no substitute for what God has called us to do. And everytime we would rather see our family in person than talk them on the phone, we recognize the point I am making--that virtual connection is no substitute for face to face. 

I agree with John in hoping that this creates a longing for people to be back together. I hope this does not provide an excuse for them not to come back together.

I also think that has revealed just how weak our ecclesiology is as a whole. Hopefully this will bring a revival of people returning to the Scriptures for their ecclesiology.

John E.'s picture

It's true that not everyone watching is paying attention. But, sadly, that's true when physically gathered, too. The viewcounter only counts devices, not actual eyeballs/ears. For example, my family of 4 counts as 1 view. To Larry's point, 2 of us were paying attention, most likely, the other 2 were not (this is why we have a discussion time and ask questions afterwards, even if our kids didn't listen to the pastor, they have to listen to us "re-preach" the sermon). 

The number of views was constantly fluctuating. Like many other churches, we had some lag time issues. During those moments, the views would drop quite a bit, but would come back up once the streaming started up again. While streaming, the counter went up and down by about 10-15 on a regular basis. I assumed that those were drive-by viewers.