Four 12 article image for "Online Church, What's Missing?' article about online church vs. gathering in person.

Online Church, What’s Missing?

In the midst of a global pandemic, it has been amazing to see how local churches, both large and small, have risen to the challenge of being unable to gather in person and have endeavoured to provide online services and content. Positively, churches are now keeping better connected to various groups that were perhaps previously overlooked, such as the elderly, carers, those with mobility issues and the sick, and providing a ‘window’ into the life of the church for those not yet following Jesus.

10-30% do not ever intend to return to in-person gatherings

Online Church is a Temporary Measure

Obviously there will be times when the message ‘stay at home and join us online’ is 100% the right thing to do. And well done to every local church and follower of Jesus who has played their part in the fight against the Coronavirus. However, research and anecdotal evidence in various nations is now emerging that 10-30% do not ever intend to return to in-person gatherings. The reasons for this are numerous, but may include consumerism, backsliding, fear and the reality of what had merely been a good cultural habit rather than a living faith in Jesus.

As society and the church globally are now slowly learning to co-exist with the Coronavirus, there is a danger of developing new habits that will replace life-giving, godly ones, particularly those replacing gathering with the local church in person.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)

…if we’re not working towards getting off the couch and into the race, it will inevitably impact our walk with Jesus

Five Things You Can’t Do as an Only Online Church

  1. Fully Play Your Part

We can order groceries, take away food and do all our shopping from the couch. However, there are some things we need to do in person to fully engage. It’s one thing to watch, but we all have something to bring to the table, as we have at least one spiritual gift (a grace) to be used to build others up.

  1. Maximise the Impact of the Body

The church isn’t about the people on the screen any more than it is about the few on the platform. “When each part does its part, the body builds itself up in love”. When parts of the church body aren’t fully connected, the entire body is inexorably weakened.

  1. Encounter Jesus ‘In the Moment’

Not everything God does is ‘downloadable’. We are a people led by the Spirit, not only in our daily lives but in our gatherings. Like Thomas, who missed out on the in-person resurrection appearance of Jesus, we too can miss out as the Lord manifests His presence among His gathered people.

  1. Model Spiritual Family to the World

The Lord has not called us to the couch but to spiritual family. In a world so divided along the lines of class, colour, ethnicity etc., we get to model what the Holy Spirit can miraculously do. We’re the most diverse group of people gathering in our nations. This doesn’t happen anywhere else like this. The glue of the Holy Spirit is working among us. Let the world see the family of God in action.

  1. Minister to the Needs of Others

The church and the Christian life is all about ‘we/us’, not ‘I/my’. ‘One another’ appears 58 times in the New Testament, including encouraging, praying, serving, loving, etc. However, most of these cannot be meaningfully done ‘from the stands’, but rather each person needs to be on the field of play! We are the hands and feet of Jesus on earth. Whilst it is a challenging season and hybrid church (in person and online) is here to stay, if we’re not working towards getting off the couch and into the race, it will inevitably impact our walk with Jesus and the effectiveness of the church in its Great Commission.


We have a few other excellent articles on this topic to read – Lord of Our Living Spaces, The Non-Existent Online Church, The Almost-Joys of Online Church.

Jonathan is the lead elder of Living Hope, a multi-site church on the Isle of Man, and ministers apostolically into the British Isles and Europe. Jonathan is married to Annette, has four daughters and is passionate about equipping saints to fulfil their calling in Jesus. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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Authority
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Teaching
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Compromise
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Poverty
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Stewarding
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Watering Down
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Generosity
Jesus
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Dreams
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Being Accountable
Occupation
Rejection
Misotheism
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Caring
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Desires
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uncompromising
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Tribulations
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Overcoming
Humbleness
Immorality
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Fornication
Planting A Church
Christian Leaders
Debt
The Word
Discipline
Condemnation
Bear Fruit
Complacent
Recalibrating
Teaching Kids
Partners Relief Fund
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Netherlands
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Apostolic Field
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Church Partnering
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Obedience
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Lust
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The Gospel
Purgatory
Control
Finances
The Word of God
Modesty
Judgement
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Comfort
Divorce
Teaching Children
Four12 Partners Relief Fund
Pastors Training
The Poor
Letting Go
Values
Partnering
Heart of God
Justice
Church Partnership
Great Commission
Existence of God
Christian Literature
Old Testament
Romance
Apostles Teaching
Apostles
Evangelism
Holiness
Partnership
Stewardship
Caring for People
Doubt
Church Involvement
Wife
Reconciliation
Overseers
Lying
Deception
Hell
Raising Children
Godliness
Miracles
Word of God
Ordained
Equality
Breakthrough
Defending My Faith
Covenant
Teenagers
Four12 Churches
Training Pastors
Needy
Rastafarian
Translations of the Bible
Preaching
Authentic Community
Relationship with God
Faith and Works
New Christian
Creation
Reading
Worldviews
God's Love
Presence of God
Apostolic
Faith
Holy Spirit
Pastoring
Suffering
Brotherly Love
Eternity
Community
Wives
Bishops
Shepherd
New Believer
Greed
Immaturity
Raising Kids
Parenting
Poor
Bible
Ordinance
Unforgiveness
Refreshing
Defending The Gospel
Matrimony
Teenage Years
Four12 Church
Youth Leaders
Ireland
Redemption
Godly Leadership
Disciple
Church Discipline
Church Health
False Teachers
Fatherly Love
Tongues
Goats
Fear God
Godly Love
Body of Christ
God's Presence
Authority
Faithfulness
Holy Spirit Baptism
Patience
Teaching
Character of a Deacon
Grief
Compromise
Blueprint
Character
Addiction
Pornography
Signs
Christening
Starting A Church
Parents
Poverty
Study the Word
Stewarding
Punishment
Being Hospitable
Sharing The Gospel
Restoration
Training Kids
Malawi
Leading Youth
Surrender
Testimonies
Christ
Delegating
Servant
Social Gospel
Character of God
Worth
Gift of Tongues
Godly Elders
Big Churches
Salvations
Sacrificial Love
Potential Leaders
Baptism
Fear of God
Hospitality
Peace
The Bible
Church Leaders
Hardship
Fellowship
Holy Living
Character of an Elder
Adultery
Rebelling
Signs and Wonders
Baptise
Infant Baptism
Power
Possessions
Study the Bible
Steward
Hatred
Hospitable
Spreading The Gospel
Relationships
Training Children
Health
Youth Training
Counting the Cost
Healing Equip
books
Raising Leaders
Shepherds
Contentment
God's Character
Affirmation
Judaism
Enlightenment
Building Deep
Prostitution
Godly Team
Footholds
Breaking Bread
Festivals
Idolatry
Prayer and Fasting
Theology
Foundations
Heaven
Fellowship of Believers
Leading Church
Diversity
Church Accountability
Rebellion
Witchcraft
Baby Christian
Kassie du Plessis
Protector
Tithing
Envy
Quiet Times
Retaliation
Lessons
Spreading The Word
Cheating
Training Teenagers
Cancer
Youth Ministry
Following the Call
Four12 Equip
Eldership Training
Community Leading
Pastors
Rest
Sacrificial Serving
Sonship
Jewish
Reason
Selling Out
Prostitutes
honour
favour
Devil's Schemes
Children
Forgiveness
Income
Prophetic
Tithes
Helper
Illness
Principles
Living for Christ
Government
Discipling
Sancti
Words of Knowledge
Babies
Prayer
Sexual Purity
Christmas
Jealousy
Meditation
Promises
Loss
The Cross
Persecution
Unfaithfulness
Sacrifice
Brazil
Prophetic Training
Healing Conference
Identity
Small Group
Biblical Pattern
Systematic Theology
False Gospel
Testimony Apostolic
Jews
Reasoning
Watering Down
Reaching Out
Expectancy
Christian Character
Generosity
Jesus
Purity
Trust
Helps
Mortality
Christian Family Values
Lukewarm
Home Group Leaders
Exhort
Sanctification
Dominionism
Beliefs
Praying
Celibacy
Fathers
Comparison
Training
Bible Study
Tests
Cross
Fear of Man
Find Forgiveness
Sacrificial Service
Brazil Churches
Prophetic Equip
Voice of God
Team
Home Group
Change
Servant Leadership
Apostolic Leaders
Authentic
Religions
Intellectual Pride
Ambition
Fruitfulness
God's Favour
The Church
Christian Living
Gentleness
Joy
Repentance
Unity
Loving People
Infirmity
Family Values
Righteousness
Leading
Exhortation
Self-Righteousness
Kingdom of God
Commands
Provision
Sex Before Marriage
Mothering
Women in Leadership
Halloween
Honesty
Testing
Crucifixion
Conversion
Guilt
Sacrificial Giving
Church Merger
Equipping
Saints
Leadership Team
Priesthood
Jehovah's Witnesses
Women In Ministry
Fruit of the Spirit
Womens Ministry
Messiah
Mind Idolatry
Megachurch
Biblical Paradox
Honouring God
God's Manifold Wisdom
Church Leadership
Church Life
Giving
Kindness
Revival
Water Baptism
Servant Heart
Living for Jesus
Covenantal Relationships
Division
Accusation
Flesh
Sexual Sin
Scripture
Customs
Provider
Living for God
Mothers
Female Leaders
Calling
Christian Fellowship
Backsliding
Easter
Witnessing
Infidelity
Biblical Culture
Merging Churches
Prophetic Equipping
Gift of Prophecy
Apostle
Priesthood of All Believers
Finance
Servanthood
Biblical Church
Praise
Atheism
Church History
Living the Gospel
Paradoxes in the Bible
Honouring People
Church Planting
Community Leaders
God the Father
Leaders
Salvation
Women
Afterlife
Protection
Dating
Decisions
Eldership
Fleshly Desires
Shame
Truth
Traditions
Works
Morality
Wisdom
Women Leaders
Ordaining Elders
Christian Community
Backslidden
Resurrection
Testimony
Masturbation
Communal Culture
Partnering Churches
Prophesy
New Churches
Five Fold Gift
Trinity
Tithe
Relationship
Employment
Thanksgiving
Atheists
Old Testament Prophet
Ambassadors
Truth in Tension
contradictions
Treasure Hunting
treasure

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