A few days ago, I came across a Facebook post that, in all honesty, made my blood boil. This doesn’t happen very often, mostly because I don’t spend all that much time on Facebook anymore, but nevertheless, I happened across it, and it’s nagged at me ever since, so much so that I feel compelled to share my response. The post consisted of the photo to the right – which states that ‘church on the sofa will never be the same as church in the sanctuary – alongside the following text:
As church attendance numbers fade across the nation and online services become very convenient (who doesn’t love not getting ready in the morning or leaving the home?!), it’s important to remember why church attendance for you and your family matters so much.You can’t serve from your sofa.You can’t have community of faith on your sofa.You can’t experience the power of a room full of believers worshipping together on your sofa.Christians aren’t consumers either. We are contributors. We don’t watch. We engage. We give. We sacrifice. We encourage. We do life together.The church needs you.And you need the church.Wherever you are, find a local church where you and your family can be part of community and use your talents to advance the kingdom and reach others. To come alongside one another physically, not just through a screen. While I’m grateful for technology to keep people connected that can’t physically come to a facility or need to be away, it’s absolutely not like being in the building. Never will be.Yes, church on the sofa is nice.But it’ll never be the same as church in the sanctuary.
Wait? What? Yes, to finding a local church where you can be part of a community and use your talents etc. Yes to contributing, yes to engaging, yes to giving, yes to sacrificing, yes to encouraging, yes to doing life together. But a big fat NO to not being able to serve from the sofa, or not being able to have a community of faith on your sofa, or not being able to experience worship (whatever that means!) from your sofa. The whole post struck me as a very narrow, blinkered way of understanding church, not to mention how ableist and exclusionary it is.
So to those who may have been discouraged or felt excluded and insulted by the above-mentioned post, I want to say this: you absolutely CAN serve from your sofa. You absolutely CAN have a community of faith on your sofa. You absolutely CAN experience the power of a room-full of believers worshipping together on your sofa – or wherever else you might be!
This last year has given everyone a taste of what it’s like to not be able to attend church services, which is what it’s like for a lot of people ALL THE TIME, people with physical or mental health problems, those with disabilities, additional needs, vulnerabilities, caring or work responsibilities, those who are persecuted for any reason etc. Posts like the one above can make those who already feel as though they are on the fringe, feel even more excluded, unwanted and burdensome.
I believe it’s important not to conflate ‘attending church services’ with ‘being church’. It’s an old chestnut, but it’s true: the church is not a building, it’s a body, a body of believers, a family of faith, and there is no one right way of being family. The early church didn’t meet in church buildings, or in special sanctuaries; they met in homes, sitting on whatever the first century equivalent of a sofa was! Getting together is important; sharing, supporting, loving, laughing, crying, serving, caring, praying, learning, growing together is important, but it’s not the space that it’s done in or the day of the week that its’ done on that matters. It’s the heart that it’s done with.
One last thing, before I lay this to rest: I think it’s important that the church doesn’t become divided into those who can attend church services and those who can’t. We, as a whole church family, need to make BEING CHURCH meaningfully accessible to all, no matter our individual circumstances, or whether that happens on the sofa or in the sanctuary, or the village hall, or a room above a pub, or the local cafe, or on a zoom call. When you’re church, you’re church – all the time, everywhere.