2 April, 2023

You Have to Be There

by | 20 February, 2023 | 2 comments

By Doug Redford 

Early in 2020 (before COVID-19 began to affect what we could do and where we could go), our family attended a Broadway version of The Lion King.  

The Sunday before performances started, a local newspaper carried a story about the production with the heading, “So, you’ve seen ‘The Lion King’ movies, but this is why you need to see it live.” The associate director of the musical said, “The differences between having live people on a stage and animated images on a screen are profound.” Another individual involved in theater added, “Why, when people can buy every DVD and every piece of music ever made, does Garth Brooks still sell out a house in minutes?” The writer of the article answered: “It’s because actually being in a theater or arena with a performer is a completely different experience than sitting at home listening to the same music through a set of speakers.”  

The writer noted that all of this “may sound a little too supernatural for some of you.” Which might cause us to think about the church and worship (an application that the writer likely did not intend to make).  

Some people claim they can “worship God anywhere”—in nature, at home watching a televised or online service, or reading the Bible in the living room while listening to Christian music. But we are indeed missing something sacred and “supernatural” when we absent ourselves from the body of Christ whenever it gathers together for worship, fellowship, teaching and preaching, and the sharing of our “family meal” at Communion.  

The writer of Hebrews set before his readers a challenge still worthy of being heard: “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).  

Being with fellow believers is a “completely different experience” that cannot be duplicated by anything that isolates us from them. (Obviously some individuals are physically unable to attend a service; however, their need for fellowship can and must still be addressed.) 

The newspaper article on The Lion King closed with this statement: “Ultimately, you just have to be there.” That applies to church life as well.  

Doug Redford has served in the preaching ministry, as an editor of adult Sunday school curriculum, and as a Bible college professor. Now retired, he continues to write and speak as opportunities come. 


  1. Wesley Paddock

    But it is so much nicer to be able to sit on a comfortable couch or chair, enjoy coffee and conversation and occasionally see or hear what is happening in church. Pajamas, slippers, hair in curlers, etc., add to the comfortable scene. Thus we are less apt to be challenged by the music, sermon, prayers, or communion.

  2. Melinda Johnson

    I am grateful for those who do have to stay home bc they are sick, or have a migraine, or the elderly who permanently can no longer attend church in person bc it allows us to stay connected to the local body and not give up “meeting.” I’m fairly young, only 42, but my relatively small church of 250 still livestreams the services on a couple of platforms for about 10-15 people without making anyone feel guilty like articles like this. Everyone knows this by now. If they are coming back to your congregation, they already have. Time to focus on other ways to win people to Christ and bring them through the doors rather than making those who are extremely happy using these incredible helpful livestream services (like me with chronic illnesses who can’t always make it to the in person service) feel guilty. Please, please move on.

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