Physical Unity can be an Illusion

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. Isaiah 29:13 NLT

As I write this many Adventist Church buildings around the world are open for full services. Some have restricted services while some churches are still closed or have recently closed after the COVID spike over the holidays. While churches offer services on Zoom and Facebook live,  etc., I still hear some people say it’s not real church. To some, real church means sitting together physically in the same pew at the church building. At the risk of sounding cynical, here are some things I think we need to consider.

To think that you are worshipping with someone just because you are in the same church building can be an illusion. Their hearts and minds can still be miles away. They may even be worshipping self while you worship God. Judas was plotting the betrayal of Jesus while sitting with the other disciples. Physical proximity does not guarantee unity. When Paul said in Hebrews 10:25 not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together, they were meeting in homes and not church buildings.

Today when we read that passage many have the idea that Paul was saying to go to a formal Sabbath church service like we have had the last hundred years or so. Here is what we need to keep in mind. When Paul wrote those words he did not even know about the ritual worship services we conduct today. Adventists do not get our worship service rituals from the Bible. We get them from the Methodists. Our “method” of worship is from the “Method”-ists. The method of worship Adventists have been doing for years now is neither Biblical or unbiblical. It is acceptable, but so are many other methods as well. While many do not think Zoom church is real church, I have no doubt that Paul would have included Zoom as assembling ourselves together. It is real biblical church.

Jesus did not promise blessings for worshipping in a building, but for worshipping in the Spirit.

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem….But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.  For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:21-24 NLT

Jesus did not promise to be with us for meeting in a building but for meeting in His name.

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20 NKJV

Just as one person from Sydney and one person from London can be together on a Zoom Bible study likewise they can be gathered together in the name of Jesus while one is still in Sydney and the other is in London.

While it may be more ideal to worship in person Zoom and similar venues are still real worship venues. Just like in 3 John 1:13-14 John says he does not want to just write letters but meet face to face. Still the letters were legitimate forms of communication. The idea that true worship and unity must involve physical proximity is an illusion. Real worship is not done in a building. It is done in the Spirit.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.