Q: Do you think Christian fellowship via the Internet is an acceptable alternative to attending church services? Does praying and encouraging each other by e-mail count as participating in the "fellowship of believers"?
—Sherry Pettey, Carthage, Missouri
A: Sherry, the expression "fellowship of believers" describes the vibrant, compassionate, and committed relationships the early church experienced as a direct result of their unity in the Spirit and the time they spent together in worship, prayer, and study (Acts 2:42-47). Later in Hebrews 10:25, the Scriptures urge all of us as the body of Christ: "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess … And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together … but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
For missionaries overseas, for people who live in remote areas, and for those whose physical limitations keep them homebound the Christian fellowship accessible through the Internet is truly a godsend. It's a wonderful way to stay connected to other believers, and to receive encouragement, prayer, biblical instruction, and godly counsel. Even those of us who have the privilege of being actively involved in a local congregation find we can benefit from Christian websites and online groups.
But Internet church fellowship does have its limitations. Watching a church service on your PC just isn't the same as being there. In His earthly ministry, Jesus often demonstrated how well He understood the power of personal contact—the warmth of the human touch.1