Internet Church Isn’t Really Church… I Miss Actual Church Services

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With COVID-19 still holding the world at ransom, more churches are offering live-streaming of their services.

In this season of life, I have also heard that Prophet Shepherd Bushiri of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) launched a subscription-only online church service last Sunday.

Live-streamed church services are nothing new, and churches have been making and selling recordings of their sermons ever since the advent of cassette tapes. The intention behind – to make the church and its attendant benefits of community, prayer and worship, available to everyone with a smartphone — is a good one worth an applaud.

Inasmuch as I feel streaming churches online is the best way to do now for the homebound in a bid to flatten the curve, it presumes that God is primarily present to us one on one, as individuals, rather than as a community of believers. This is not what the Bible says. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says that “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” This passage suggests the necessity of being part of a community in which we approach God, rather than doing it alone.

In his letters to early Christian communities, the Apostle Paul describes the church as a body comprising different but equally necessary members. When the church at Corinth was bickering over the importance of different spiritual gifts, Paul wrote to remind them that “the body does not consist of one member but of many.” He writes, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” Later, he says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.”

Thus for me, I’m not feeling any of the online church movement. I heavily feel that it is is so flashy and out of touch with my spiritual reality, just like any other AI, VR-related technology.

The actual church calls for me every day.

Going to church — sitting in a room with other people for two or five and a half on Sundays — is non-negotiable for me.

I miss being one or two hours late for the church as I will be dressing impeccably in church clothes.

I miss seeing pastors in those suits that have twice as many buttons as business suits and don’t come in colours as much they come in flavours that make them looks like moustachioed comedian and game-show host Steve Harvey.

I miss seeing our church mothers dressed up simultaneously in demure costume tailored to show less cleavage than usual and fall below the knee, but still highlight the roundness of their behinds racily dancing before their Lord Jesus.

I miss the warm welcomes of dedicated ushers, church greeters, door openers and smiling welcomers, even the deputised, stone-faced keepers of the peace who will be standing like nightclub bouncers in thick, white-soled nursing shoes.

I miss wild praise and worship jamming music. Even though the musicians seem like they could handle any type of music ever invented, they still need help. That is why, two rows behind you and no matter where you sit, they will be someone who brought their own tambourine. That person will be playing their tambourine like Jesus might come tomorrow, while someone bangs the drums like they gotta scare the devil away.

I miss the Holy Ghost sessions. While it differs from one church to another, there are actually two versions of it. There’s the boujee Holy Ghost—which sometimes makes wealthy Suburbans break into tears, wave their hands, and occasionally thrash about— and the Pentecostal Holy Ghost.  This one has a rhythm. If your mother begins to rock and speak in undecipherable syllables (Mahumba Mahumba, Bond ndokundiburner), don’t stick your belt in her mouth. It is not a seizure, but the presence of the Holy Ghost. Don’t panic. Be calm. The ushers will be there in a second to hold hands around her in a circle to confine her shouting space and limit the number of sequins that fall off her dress.

Also missed are the church sermons, not the stage-performed stunts of pastors talking about Bill Gates, COVID-19, 5G and microchips we are currently seeing across the internet.

After the Holy Ghost comes and leaves, the sermon will begin. There is a list of things you should know before you partake in a sermon, or you might lose your mind.

There is a list of church phrases that you will need to study like a 3rd-grade pupil spelling test. I don’t care what denomination you attend but I can assure you that at one point during the service, the preacher is going to say, “God is good.” Even if you think God is not good, or you believe him to be GREAT, there is only one correct response: “All the time.” Just to make sure you understand, the pastor will present you with the mathematical converse of this phrase by saying, “And all the time?” Again, you shall respond only with “God is good.”

There might not be that much scripture. Sometimes God lays it on a pastor’s heart to give a message straight from the pop song, movie or a catch phrase of the time. So if the preacher presents the story of Delilah betraying Samson as “kutsibidwa or kupusiswa” or talks about God sparing Lot’s life as “Straight Outta Sodom,” just roll with it. There is only one way to make sure you understand the message of the pastor’s sermon and bury it in your heart: You must turn to your neighbour and say it with him.

As certain as the sunrise, the church sermon will be longer, more heated, and more animated. You can be like Brother Panashe and check your Whatsapp or Facebook while flirting with hostesses, or be like Sister Mercy and take notes. Either way, don’t worry, it will be over soon. Like in an hour or two if the preacher is feeling it.

I miss giving the offering sessions. Either you are going to have to march up front to drop your offering off, or the ushers will pass baskets down your aisles to collect your money. There are going to be multiple collections for many different causes, so don’t go blowing your wad by making it rain the first time they pass the offering plate around, lest it seems like you are being stingy during the pastor’s collection, the building fund, the honorarium for the guest speaker and the tithes. Whatever you planned to give, divide it by 10 and give a little bit in each offering. Mind you, ushers don’t like to make a change. I mean it’s kinda awkward asking for a change in the church.

See, I’m not getting any of this from your online church services, hence the internet church isn’t a church to me. Unlike you, I’m not build to consume church the way I consume the news. I want an actual church.

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ImChris Charamba

ImChris Charamba

Head Storyteller at Enthuse Afrika. Balances literary writing with pop culture experience. Captivates raw, authentic sights, moments, feelings and conversations. Follow me on Twitter @ImChrisCharamba

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