Leaders of a United Methodist megachurch based in the Kansas City metropolitan area promoted the benefits of online worship, calling it “one of the biggest opportunities to make the Gospel more available.”
Church of the Resurrection held a virtual training seminar on Jan. 27 titled “Engaging Your Church Online,” which focused on using digital tools for worship and discipleship.
Ashley Morgan Kirk, online care and connection pastor at Resurrection, gave remarks during a segment, asserting that offering online worship “deepens” engagement with the church.
“Every week, [Resurrection Senior] Pastor Adam [Hamilton] meets somebody who has never walked into our physical doors before but has been worshiping online with us,” Kirk explained.
“We hear from people who aren’t ready to come back in person yet, who are faithfully attending online. … I talk with people each week who aren’t geographically close to us but who are identifying as Resurrection people.”
Kirk went on to note that while “online church has been a method” for some who regularly attended before the pandemic to keep up, her congregation has “also seen new people join us.”
“For some in Kansas City who are new to us, online worship is their screen door to our physical front doors at our locations,” she continued. She drew a parallel to Methodism founder John Wesley’s practice of itinerant preaching outside of church buildings.
“I think this is the moment in history that’s allowing us one of the biggest opportunities to make the Gospel more available to the general public, just like the work that Wesley did.”
Additionally, Kirk viewed online worship as helping to serve as a “lifeline” for growing faith, “to combat loneliness” during pandemic lockdowns and “to maintain a sense of belonging.”
Justin Schoolcraft, who oversees the young adult program at Resurrection, said in a session held later that day that he believed doing small groups through digital made people more willing to share personal things about themselves.
“There’s something about somebody joining on Zoom or digitally, being in their space, being in the space that they call home, where they are familiar, and they are comfortable, that it interestingly makes it a little easier to open up about the movement of God in our lives,” Schoolcraft explained.
“When they’re on Zoom, there’s something about the space that they’re in where they were much more inclined to talk about the person of God and what God was doing in their lives. So I think that’s one of the things that is easier with digital, is the openness and vulnerability.”
In 2020, due to the lockdowns stemming from COVID-19, the vast majority of churches in the United States closed down in-person worship and turned to online alternatives.
One of the notable exceptions was Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, California, reopened its doors and held in-person services despite the state's ongoing orders to adhere to COVID-19 gathering restrictions on churches.
In a Grace to You episode posted online last October, Pastor John MacArthur said he didn't believe online worship fit the biblical definition of "Church."
“Zoom church is not Church,” said MacArthur at the time. “It’s not Church. It’s watching TV. There’s nothing about that that fulfills the biblical definition of coming together, stimulating one another to love and good works, coming together.”
“The definition of a Church is crystal clear in the New Testament. We see the picture of it. They came together the first day of the week. They worshiped the Lord, they prayed. … It was fellowship and it was the breaking of bread in the Lord’s supper.”
MacArthur said "church" involves “coming together” and that “it doesn’t even function unless people” are “mutually using their spiritual gifts for one another.”
“The Church is the Church when it corporately worships, when it corporately prays, when it corporately hears preaching of the Word of God,” he added.