I recently was at a graduation and the speaker, Senator Benjamin Sasse, talked about the uniqueness of congregational worship. He explained that throughout human history, people have experienced neighborliness. This is true of hunters and gatherers, farmers, and the transition to cities during the industrial age. But we are experiencing, now, the displacement of the post-industrial (and what he calls the) post-neighborly age.
What Sasse means is this, people have always had communities. The great fear of people in the late 19th and early 20th century was that community would be disrupted when people would move from rural to urban areas. During this time people started going back to church because they needed community.
With the dawning of technology, computers, smart phones and the like, people spend an exorbitant amount of time on-line. We Tweet, Facebook, post pictures on Instagram, and try to engage relationships through a screen and yet people feel lonelier than ever. Benjamin Sasse said the average person had about 5 friends 100 years ago, now days the average person has about 1 or 2 people they would call true friends. It used to be that a person would change jobs every 20 years or so (and experience the disruption that goes along with change). Now people experience this kind change every 3.8 years.
What does all this lead to?
The need for community and neighborliness. The world may not provide community like what people are longing for, but the church does.
Think of a worship service for example. It is one thing to listen to a sermon and worship music on-line. It is quite another thing to experience live preaching together with a community of people, and to experience congregational worship in which we participate. A.W. Tozer said it best,
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Tozer is saying what Benjamin Sasse was saying at the beginning and end of his commencement speech. Congregational worship is unique. When else do people get together and sing in unity a song of praise to God. This is not possible by doing internet church.