How does our pastor feel about—and deal with—empty pews when on-line services are so convenient? We are encouraged to meet with others…Hebrews 10:25
Whether it’s because of health challenges, the cost of gas, the fact that you’re out of town, or just feeling too anxious or depressed to be around a lot of people, we do understand that many people have perfectly good reasons for worshiping online rather than in our building on Sunday mornings. To be 100% transparent and honest, it’s not very fun to preach to a half-empty room. Ask any pastor anywhere, and they’ll admit that it is much more life-giving to lead worship in a sanctuary full of engaged people.
But aside from a pastor’s personal concerns about empty pews, there is something deeper here too. The writer of Hebrews did encourage us, “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Heb 10:24-25a). But this passage isn’t just about getting together for the sake of being in the same room on Sunday mornings. Our real goal is to be an encouragement to each other, helping our fellow Christians love and serve in Christ’s name.
In the 21st century we have all sorts of technologies that expand our abilities to encourage each other in faith, way beyond just being at 302 S Main St on Sunday mornings. We can emulate the early church found in Acts 2:48, devoting ourselves “to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Being a committed Christian is way more than sitting in a pew: it can also take the form of joining outreach ministries, delivered meals, or church maintenance projects. It can look like encouraging emails or text messages, or even online worship. God doesn’t just want your attendance, God wants your whole self, the whole week long. As pastors, if you’re committed all week, but miss Sundays sometimes, that’s a tradeoff we’d happily take.