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Online “Worship” During Covid

When our church shut down in-person worship services and went online, I really didn’t mind. No getting dressed up and driving to church. Susan and I could have plenty of hot coffee and watch the service on Apple TV in our living room. What’s not to like about that?

Well, aside from the lack of fellowship, we found we missed both the majesty and intimacy of live worship and singing. Morning after morning, we just watched the worship team “lead us in worship.” It felt odd. They were worshiping, but what were we doing? Watching worship? Just listening to a sermon?

While many churches have opened up, at least partially, most have limited seating, so the majority of people will continue to worship at home. Or will they?

Is sitting in front of a computer screen or watching a church service on a screen really worship?

It can be. But you’d have to ask God to know for sure!

Is just watching your church worship team, sing and listening to a sermon  actually worship, from God’s perspective? It’s not so much what you are experiencing, but what worship is God experiencing from you?

The following are a few ideas for moving from simply watching a worship service, to having a far more meaningful worship experience for God. Here’s my disclaimer; almost all my ideas, are just that, mine. I can’t quote some “thus sayeth the Lord” passage for these ideas. I present them to you for your consideration to perhaps raise the bar on your home worship.

  1. Shower and get dressed. At first reading, that advice feels legalistic doesn’t it? But the truth is, when I sit around in sweat pants until noon, which I have, there is something in me that makes me feel lazy and not fully alert. I’m not talking about putting on a coat and tie. But consider wearing what you’d wear on a zoom call with your boss, or good client. I want to arrive at worship, whether at church or at home as respectful and alert as possible.

  2. Get out your paper Bible. Yes, I realize you have your Bible on your phone. But you also have on your phone the temptation to “just respond to this one text now that I’m thinking about it.” Or getting notifications that you just can’t control. So, how about putting aside the distraction of your device for an hour. Just leave it in the kitchen. Grab your paper Bible, get a pen for notes and prepare yourself to hear from God.

  3. Pray before the online service begins. For decades, I’ve made it a practice, just before the service begins to pray to God that he would be honored by my worship and that I’d understand everything God wants to tell me. I want to get get my heart right, even before the service starts. Consider doing the same at home.

  4. When the worship team sings – rise and sing along. Susan and I got in the good habit of doing everything at home, that we would generally to do at church. If we normally rise when the congregation sings, or reads Scripture, we rise at home. Why? First, we’re not just singing about God, generally we’re singing to him. Standing when addressing God, our King, I feels more respectful toward him. “I urge you to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God; this is your true worship.” Romans 12:1

  5. Take notes of the sermon or message, as you might in live worship. Taking notes re-enforces what is being taught and prepares you for #6 below.

  6. Discuss what was taught with your family after the service. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the questions for your family that will result in real understanding. As adults, we often think that our kids are hearing and therefore understanding, the same information we are. They aren’t always. Think about asking some of these questions:

  7. What was confusing about what our pastor said?

  8. What questions would you like to ask him/her?

  9. What makes putting into practice, the things pastor said, so hard for you?

  10. How will you live or think differently tomorrow based on what you learned?

  11. Have your family see you contributing to your church. Write a check, or make an online donation as a reminder to your children that you take supporting the work of your church an important part of worship.

  12. Please don’t just show up for the sermon. If it’s been your practice to turn on your computer and join the service 15 or 20 minutes into the worship service, after the music worship, and perhaps after the “pastoral prayer” consider what God thinks of that. The 15 minutes of full-hearted prayer and singing may actually be more worshipful to him, than you just listening to the message. Remember, the most important reason for your worship each Sunday is primarily for Him, not for you.

  13. Online Chatting Okay, here’s my final pet peeve. The video service our church uses, allows  people to send greetings to others that we can all see on a bar on the side of our screen. So “Mary” does a shout out to “Beth” and a dozen people are sending messages, maybe even recipes  all through the service. Through the worship time, the prayer time, the sermon, someone is letting everyone know what they are thinking. Zeeesh! I can turn that feature off, and I do. But, again, do these people ever for a moment, consider what God thinks of this? It feels to me like those disrespectful people who answer every cell phone call, or text throughout the meal when out with friends at a restaurant. When you are communicating with others, you are not thinking of who else is at the table. The Puritans used to say, “We live for an audience of one.”

Okay, I’m off my high horse now. If God knows he’s been your audience of one and has experienced you heart-felt worship next Sunday, then enjoy the rest of the day, even if the rest of your personal Corona virus world is still upside-down.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:17, 18

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