Pillar DC family,
After much discussion, the elders have decided that it is in the best interest of both our church and the glory of God to no longer offer the livestream for Sunday services, effective June 11th. This date is in keeping with Mayor Bowser’s announcement to fully remove all gathering restrictions, effective June 11th.
Before explaining the specific reasons behind this decision, we want you to know that we have not entered into this decision lightly. We know that some of you may not agree with this decision, but we genuinely believe this is the most loving decision we could possibly make for the good of our church and of your soul.
When the pandemic began almost 15 months ago, we never imagined it would last this long. It has been a challenging year and a half for us all. At the height of the pandemic and the shutdowns, we pivoted to offering livestream services out of necessity because we were not able to gather the whole body corporately.
Additionally, there were elevated risks for some in our church, so we wanted to offer an option to those individuals to watch online, even if it isn’t the same as gathering in person. We do not regret making the decision to offer livestream services during that season.
However, we believe that the time has come for us to no longer offer the livestream because we believe it to be counterproductive to our calling to worship as a church.
We were not offering livestream services before the pandemic because we highly value (and we believe Scripture highly values) in-person worship gatherings. Additionally, it was never our intention to indefinitely offer livestream services on Sunday mornings once we began.
The most important reasoning behind this decision, though, is the biblical reasoning. The word for “church” in the New Testament is ekklesia, which means “assembly”. Most of us would agree that the church is a people, not a place. But those people become a church in part by gathering in a place.
The act of assembling in a location is the mechanism by which the people are a church: the assembly. It is when God’s people assemble in person that the church is present.
We see this over and over in Scripture where it is clear that the church is the people of God gathered and that being gathered is an essential component to them being a church:
Is it possible to worship with our church if we are not physically present? Can we say that we are worshipping with our church if we are at home watching on a screen what others are doing live and in person?
We would argue that, while we can and should worship God at all times in many different contexts, watching the church worship at home is not worshipping with the church.
Put simply, watching a livestream of a worship service is not a suitable or sustainable substitute to in-person worship gatherings.
Note the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:19-21, where he commands the Ephesian church to the action of “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ.”
Notice that in this exhortation to corporate worship that there are significant things that must be done to or with one another that would necessitate assembling together.
An even more clear scriptural example of this is the exhortation given to us in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
The writer of Hebrews is explicitly tying our obedience in helping one another grow and encouraging one another to the physical gathering. In other words, we cannot properly obey this scriptural exhortation by watching a livestream.
What we are saying, Pillar Church, is that worship services are not content to be consumed but a community to be committed to. While you may be able to receive the benefit of teaching online, you cannot truly participate in the corporate worship of our Lord with other believers as Scripture calls us to.
Not only that, but most of your other brothers and sisters (aside from the one teaching) are unable to use their gifts to build you up. And you are unable to use your gifts to build up the other believers in the church.
As elders, we are concerned that by continuing to live stream our worship services we might be enabling decisions to not gather for worship for the sake of convenience rather than for legitimate health concerns.
In such cases, false ideas of worship and bad habits of the Christian life are being formed. We do not want to continue giving the impression that watching a service online is a suitable substitute to gathering physically with other believers, because we do not believe that is good for your souls.
Additionally, there are real, tangible benefits as outlined in Scripture connected to physically gathering together. As elders we would not be caring for you well by enabling the body to miss out on these benefits.
We are not downplaying real concerns some may still have, but rather seeking to be as biblically faithful as we can and to operate in a way that is most conducive to the spiritual health and maturity of our body, both as individuals of the body and as a whole.
Our ultimate aim is to help each one of you know Jesus and make Him known in DC and around the world. As Paul told the Corinthians, “We work with you for your joy” (2 Cor. 1:24). In all of this, that is our aim.
We are committed to continuing to respect our governing authorities as we are called to do in Scripture (Rom. 13:1-7). In that regard, we will continue to abide by the current recommendations of the CDC and our local authorities.
We also recognize and understand that for some individuals there may be continued health concerns. In many ways, the livestream has been a great benefit for our brothers and sisters who have elevated health risks.
We are committed to continuing to care for the members of our church for whom it still may be unsafe to gather for in person worship services. Sermons will continue to be posted online on Mondays and the elders of the church will continue to be in regular communication with those members who are unable to gather for health reasons.
We understand that you may have questions for us about this announcement, and we want you to know that we welcome your feedback and would be happy to discuss this more with you if you have questions or concerns.
Again, we have not made this decision lightly and we have put much thought and prayer into this. We love this church so much, and we love each one of you and are thankful that God has given us the privilege of shepherding such a wonderful church body.
Our desire is to see the members of Pillar DC continue to thrive as you each “bear the fruit of righteousness to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:11). We are confident that this decision will help towards that end.
We recognize that in these difficult days there is no perfect solution that will fully satisfy everyone. That is why we are asking everyone, including ourselves, to take a posture of grace and humility towards one another.
Satan would love nothing more than to cause division and disunity. But as recipients of great grace, we have the ability and calling to extend that same grace to one another.
Ephesians 4:32-5:2 – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”
– Pillar DC Elders