Two things have come together in our day to give us some new terminology - virtual church. We refer, of course, to the virus pandemic because of which indoor gatherings were discouraged and many businesses were closed. We, in fact, did not meet together for thirteen weeks. The other factor is technology. We are now able to view and talk with others (even in a group) on our computers, tablets, smart phones and even televisions. This is when we began to “live stream” our lessons. It was a stop-gap method to still preach the word and stay in touch without jeopardizing lives.
But what was an emergency response to a dangerous situation has now become for many Christians a new way to do church - “virtual church.” In your living room, listen to the preacher’s lesson, maybe say a prayer, perhaps take the Lord’s supper by yourself and “Walla!” - you have virtual church. How easy is that?! Do you think this is what God had in mind for His followers?
By definition, virtual is not the real thing. The word translated “church” is the Greek ekklesia which means a group called out into an assembly. Church is an assembly or a gathering. The Hebrews’ author exhorted his readers not to forsake assembling together because of the current persecution. Note what he says was missing when they didn’t gather together. They were to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” There was to be an “encouraging” of one another. I’m not sure today’s church has learned yet that these things are an important part of our assembling together. But they certainly are not possible when the congregation is sitting at home in their “jammies.” (There is more to be said on this topic.)
When you are sick, recuperating from surgery, in quarantine, etc., being able to hear the word and keep in touch with the congregation via technology is a plus. But such an arrangement was not the Lord’s idea for “assembling together.”