1. Kenny, thank you for commenting, see my reply to Dr. Vantuttlesma. Blessings, Chris

  2. Dear Jahn,

    Many thanks for your response. My position is simple, not complex. My argument is that we shouldn’t call it corporate worship because it it’s not. Our Church Order, as taken from Dort says, Article 37– “The Consistory shall call the congregation together for corporate worship twice on each Lord’s Day.” According to our ecclesiology and CO, that call is a public summons for the actual gathering of the flock. But the government has said NO, and for a very good reason. So we have publicly said we are canceling that public gathering, again, together. The same principle for communion applies. If we are not clear about this, this will open us up many other future problems.

    I believe we have to accept the providence of this and keep our ecclesiology clear, that the corporate worship of God is a public call of all the saints together, and internet engagement from home does not constitute our Reformed view of public gathering. I think we need a real and clear distinction for our people at times like this. Hear me when I say, this does not exclude use of sermons, messages, prayers online. BUT it is NOT in any sense corporate worship. This is common sense. Fathers should be able to lead their families in person in family worship with more effectiveness, just as watching anything from a screen is not as effective as the in person experience. I trust you appreciate this every time you drive to class.

    Al Mohler said the exact same thing yesterday in his briefing. I am saying nothing different.
    “We should not as biblically minded Christians actually believe that anything we can do online is actually the same as what it means for us to gather together in physical space, in our physical bodies, and to experience the ordinary means of grace together, to experience the fellowship of Christ church together, to enjoy and to experience the singing of hymns together, our voices coming together in unison, praying together, and hearing the Word of God preached together.
    Now, if we’re honest, this is just a matter of common sense… never make the mistake of believing that you are doing the same thing and you are having the very same effect that you would have in the body, in the flesh, in the room.”

    Chris Gordon

  3. Rev. Gordon,
    Your post certainly makes valid points concerning the importance of corporate worship (which is different than a digital service) and how it has been/is being undermined in American Christianity, but streaming services is the only substitute that we have for this situation. Is is better for Christians to have no spiritual nourishment than to livestream a sermon? I find it especially ironic that the emphasis the need for “family worship” considering the fact that it is a private (not corporate) activity lead by a layman. Why do you consider such an activity as worship? Churches live streaming services should emphasize the limitations of a digital “service”, but at least God’s people are being fed by an ordained minister of the word.

    • Thanks for replying. First, I have no idea why a distinction between corporate and family worship is ironic. The entire Puritan/reformed tradition has made the distinction. They are not the same things. Second, I’m critiquing the the livestream of worship with an “absent” people. Still not a fan of live-streaming worship with the people present, but the main engagement is what is being practiced in light of the coronavirus, worship with the people at home. This promotes great confusion.

    • Rev. Gordon, Thank you for your reply. I apologize for being unclear in my previous post, but my argument rested on the fact that there is a fundamental difference between corporate worship and “family worship” (which is in actuality not really worship). Due to the fact that “family worship” is in fact different than corporate worship, it does not make sense to me why you are promoting this as an alternate. “Family worship” is led in private by a layman. It is not a public gathering of God’s people. Although digital services do not unite Christians in person, it is led by an ordained minister of the word. The benefit to watching (and even participating during song and prayer) a digital service is far greater than conducting a private “family worship” (a de facto bible study). Wouldn’t your congregation be better served to watch and (in a limited way) participate in a digital service that you were leading than to orchestrate private worship on a family to family basis? It seems to me that your solution contributes to the privatization of Christianity as much as these “ghost town” services. In all likelihood, those who are not live-streaming a sermon are likely listening to a past sermon on sermon audio. Should God’s people really go weeks on end without hearing the word proclaimed by a minister of the word? Will Christians not thirst for the day when they can once again worship corporately in spirit and in truth after being limited to digital services for weeks on end? Your concern for public worship is commendable, but in light of these unique times, it seems that best solution is to live stream services, even if the pastor is preaching to a largely empty room.

      On another note, I do wonder why you consider these “ghost town” services not to be actual worship services. Matthew 18:20 states that, “For where two or three gather together in My name, there am I with them.” Although the vast majority of the congregation is not present, there are still people presently participating in worship (pianist, sound/tech individuals, etc.) Why are these people an exception? If this practice was occurring in ordinary times, then I would say that your evaluation was accurate, but due to the coronavirus, everyone that can be present (due to government mandates and health recommendations) are actually physically present in spirit and in truth.

    • Where did Vantuttlesma’s reply go? Unfortunate, as an ardent listen to AGR I was very much looking forward to Rev. Gordon’s response. I do not like commenting on blogs, but as a Dordt alumnus, I my interest was sparked when I saw our folk hero/legend appear on a site like this. Any Vantuttlesma siting is of note. Although I am certainly no authority, Vantuttlesma’s arguments seemed to not only be logical, but also to hold up to theological scrutiny. The very premise of this debate hinges on the fact that they we are currently living in extraordinary times. Otherwise, this discussion would be theoretical and academic. My views largely align with the Reformed teachings promoted by AGR, and Rev. Gordon’s defense of corporate worship is not only honorable but necessary. Despite this, corporate worship is no longer a possibility to a large number of Americans. Most large gatherings have either been banned or at the very least discouraged. The CDC recommends no more than 10 people at any one event. As a result, it seems to me that conducting a livestream service is fundamentally different in these times than in ordinary ones. Since public worship is no longer an option, livestreaming services seem to be a logical solution. Not only are Christians hearing a pastor preach the word, but we are able to participate in our homes to the best of our ability. Moreover, these live streamed services have as many people present as possible due to our extreme times. I can only conclude that Matthew 18:19-20 would strongly support a live streamed service in these times. It is not as if the church is recommending people to stay at home; actually, these actions are out of necessity. As many people that can be physically present are. I would very much like to hear a response to these claim because it seems that under our current circumstance Vantuttlesma’s argument (to the best that I can recall them) is sound. This would be a completely different argument if we were in living in times of normalcy.

      Another point that I believe was discussed was your solution of family worship. Due to the fact that the middle section of your article talks about God’s people thirsting for the word, I can only assume that this was included in order to discourage live streaming services as alternates. I can only speak from my own perspective, but I am already longing for the proclaimed word after only one Sunday, and believe that fellow Christians will also long for when we are once again physically united to worship God. I do not think that live streaming services will change our thirst. I know that me and my family were greatly blessed by the sermon that we live streamed. Any family worship that I would have led would not have been as beneficial. I would love to hear why family worship and other live streamed messages/prayers are superior to a live streamed service.

    • Hi Jahn, it’s good to ran across you! I hope (Lord willing) that we can get together during defender days this fall. Blessings.

    • Johnathan, I look forward to it. Please send my regards to Beth. I bid you good day.

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