Christianity Today published an article on the Virtual Church phenomenon.  I can understand the demand and rationale for virtual church communities based upon the reality of social networking.  In some cases, it may be good, as in the case of shut-ins or those in remote areas of the world.  However, I imagine that many of the participants in the virtual church are persons that are able to commit to a local church body, but not the desire. 

     The body of Christ lives in close quarters.  Christ lived with his followers.  His body does life together.  Look through the Bible and note the references to community life for the people of God.  God has always gathered his people together.  The gathered people of God encourage, exhort and edify one another.  The primary place for these endeavors is in the physical environment.  The most clear teaching in the Bible on this subject comes from Hebrews 10:19-25, especially vss. 23-25. 

    Some may argue that encouragement, exhortation and edification can and does takes place online.  I don’t doubt that there is truth in this statement.  I would argue that there are two issues with this thinking.  First, there is greater encouragement in a hug, greater exhortation in looking someone in the eye and submitting to a loving rebuke, and greater edification in the gathered people of God singing and submitting together.  Second, the one who intentionally chooses to be a part of the virtual church instead of the physical, gathered church, even though he/she has is able to physically commit to the local church, is guilty of disobeying God’s command to physically meet together.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:24-25

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