The shutdown for coronavirus protection has exposed the inadequacy of the modern way of doing church.

Pastors are talking about virtual church, digital worship and online services, as if they were something revolutionary. The reality is that these methods are far from the "body of Jesus" that Paul described.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body... Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. As it is, there are many parts, but one body (1 Cor 12:12-14, 18, 20).
Paul was not describing a virtual church or digital body.

An online service is a good way for a pastor to speak to all his/her people at the same time, but the body of Jesus is more than a weekly sermon. If the people of the church need to hear from their pastor to know what to do in a new situation, something is seriously wrong. If they have been taught how to hear the Holy Spirit speak, he will tell them what to do. And if people start listening to sermons online, they will soon discover there is far better teaching available online that they can get from their pastor. And then tithing will stop, because why pay for something you can get for free.

Online services enable people to listen to the pastor praying and agree with the prayers, but it is far more important that they pray under the leading of the Holy Spirit themselves.

If people like to worship while listening to Christian music, there is plenty available online. They don't need their church worship team making their selection for them. They would be better following the leading of the Holy Spirit, who knows what will inspire and encourage them.

The internet can be used to communicate words and music, but it does not channel the Holy Spirit. He lives in the hearts of God's people, and that is where he works.

The stuff that strengthens the body of Jesus cannot be done in an online church service.

A digital church service is a very sub-optimal way for the body of Christ to function. Virtual church is not real church.

Paul used the technology that was available in his time to communicate with the churches he had established. He made extensive use of letters to connect with his friends and churches, but he understood the limitations of written communication. He wrote that he longed to be with the Romans so that he could impart a spiritual gift to them.

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong (Rom 1:11).
Paul understood the limits of written communication. If he had lived in the internet age, Paul would have used it, but he would not have seen it as a substitute for meeting with people. He understood that the Holy Spirit prefers to move in the midst of a few followers of Jesus who love each other and have gathered to serve Jesus.

The church should be glad that it has had a trial run of a crisis. The current lock-down will end after a few months, but I can think of several circumstances that would cripple the church in a similar way.

The church has experienced these types of events frequently throughout its history, so they are not abnormal.

The coronavirus shutdown has demonstrated that the operating model of the modern church is only viable in good-times. The irony is that most Christians believe that there could be hard times ahead, but they have opted for a good-times church.

I hope that when the current shutdown comes to an end, pastors and church leaders will not just go back to their good-times way of operating. I hope that they will think and pray about discovering a way of being church that would remain viable through both good times and hard times.

One way that God is using the current bad situation for good is giving the church a trial run of hard times (without being life-threatening for most people). I hope that pastors and church leaders will take the opportunity to learn from the experience. If your pastors are not thinking seriously about this issue, then I suggest that you challenge them to do so.

Here is a truth that we cannot afford to ignore. A church that can only meet by people driving to a church building once a week will not be viable in hard times.

I presume that most church leaders are hoping that the crisis will soon be over so that things will go back to normal. If so, they are missing what God is saying to the church in this season. Getting back to normal is not getting back to good times. The bible teaches that tribulation is normal for the church. Jesus said,

In the world you have tribulation (John 16:33).
If Jesus said we will have tribulations, why would be happy with a way of doing church that is only viable in good times?

The current crisis is a fairly-mild, temporary trial, but it is a clear warning that a good-times model of doing church is really rather fragile. We urgently need a way of being church that can cope with good times, hard times and tribulations. We would be foolish to ignore the warning and carry on as normal.

For more on this topic see my book called Being Church Where We Live