Last week, the church announced that physical worship would cease until further notice. The news might come as a disappointment to those of us looking forward to worship in church. However, with the recent surge in community cases, it is right to suspend physical worship for now, in support of the government’s effort to curb community transmission.

In John 4, the Samaritan woman asked Jesus if the Jews were right to claim that people ought to worship at Jerusalem. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that God seeks true worshippers who would worship Him in spirit and in truth. Jesus is saying that it is not the location of worship that matters but the attitude in worship that is important. God is spirit and present everywhere. We can worship Him onsite in church as well as online at home. More importantly, God looks at our heart in worship. Remember Jesus’ admonishment in Matthew 15:8-9, ”This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship Me.”

To worship God in spirit is to put our whole heart, soul, mind and strength into our worship.  To worship God in truth is know God who is the truth and having known the truth, respond to the truth by giving glory and honour to God as a natural outpouring of the heart.  Jesus asked in Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, but not do what I say?”.  True worship is not paying lip service or going through the motions. One cannot truly worship God without having a right relationship with God, walking right and living in His truth. 

It has been over a year since our church started live-streaming worship service. How has it affected our worship of God?  Are we growing more in intimacy with God or drifting further from Him during this time?  Are there things that we do or attitudes that we have during online worship that we know is not honouring God?

Looking back, I have come to appreciate worshipping online. We can continue to worship God in spite of the restrictions on physical gathering. At home, we get to sing the hymns out loud whereas we have to follow the government’s guidelines when worshipping in church nowadays.

At the same time, I’m also mindful of the challenges posed by the conveniences of online worship.  We must avoid practices and attitudes that keep our hearts from putting God in first place.  We participate in worship and not ‘watch’ worship. “Worship in bed”, “Worship with breakfast”, “Worship in pyjamas” and “Worship on demand” reflect an irreverent attitude towards God that put our own comfort and interests above God. Our worship is not about us but about God, the object of our worship. 

Hence, we must come with the attitude and intent to “offer God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28-29). For example, I find that it is easier to get distracted or disengaged during online service. The church setting and presence of fellow worshippers create a more conducive atmosphere for worshipping God compared to the comforts at home. So it is important to intentionally prepare ourselves for worship (sleeping early on the night before, set up conducive worship area, remove things that may distract, spend time meditating before worship to prepare our hearts and minds…).  You may want to refer to the GPC online worship guide by our senior pastor in our church bulletin on 29 March 2020.

All said, I’m looking forward to the day that we can finally go back to the physical worship of pre-COVID days.  I miss worshipping as a family in church, the atmosphere of worshippers filling the pews, seeing familiar smiling faces in church, singing the hymns out loud with fellow worshippers, not forgetting the nasi lemak on the last Sundays of each month…  Until then, it is by God’s grace that we are still able to worship Him in spite of the COVID-19 measures.  Let us make the best use of what God has given us, to give of our best to worship Him with the glory and honour due to Him.