What is Drive-in Church? Drive-in Church is one of the latest fads among larger churches where they offer their church service as a drive-up, stay in your car and listen or view their worship much like the old drive-in theaters. It seems to be somewhat successful as for popularity, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to worry about your makeup, or your kids behaving, or dealing with all those nosey church people just acting friendly? However whether it is popular, convenient, or whatever other advantages it may hold we have to ask ourselves, is the principle in harmony with God’s word?
I visited the website of the nearest denominational congregation to me that offered the drive-in service just to get an idea how they explained it and how it worked. First they described who it was for, which was everyone, but they did emphasize those with physical handicaps that may keep them from worship. “…people with physical disabilities…parents of newborn children…senior adults, college students, people who are on-call with their work, people on vacation, people staying in local motels, and families could stop by Drive-in church on their way to the lake, dressed as they like.”1 This particular congregation made it clear a person could become a member of that congregation all while being part of the Drive-in worship alone if so desired. Their description of how it works explained an individual will bring a bulletin to your vehicle, then your radio could be tuned in to listen to the message, hear the band as it plays live from inside and the individuals can even sing along if they wish. If someone would like to make an offering that could still be done by holding it out for one of the vehicle ushers to receive. While we in the Lord’s church may go about some of those worship aspects differently, as long as the five parts of worship are done, is there anything really wrong?
I must admit there is nothing wrong with bringing our worship to the physically handicapped, we do so regularly though television, radio and other means for the purpose of those truly unable to attend and as a means of evangelism sowing the word among the soils. For this reason I commend these drive-in churches for their effort; I do have to question as I think about the extent in which our American buildings cater to the handicap why many people would be able to make it to the building but not make it inside, but if for some reason that is the case, I have little issue with the drive-in concept. But when these churches extend the drive-in worship to all individuals as an alternative to the assembly, this is definitely in contradiction to scripture. Here are three scriptural points to consider that this type of worship does not have, all which relate to fellowship:
No Interaction – Our interaction with other Christians in the church may not seem like it would carry much significance, but the fact is it is very important to God. The Greek term used for the church in the New Testament, ecclesia (Matt 16:18), means the called out assembly, we are called out of the world to assemble with one another. We are not talking about our cars or chariots assembling, but ourselves as individuals where we can see and speak to one another. This is our family, described as our brothers and sisters (Mark 3:35), we are members of the same body with each our own function (Rom 12 & 1 Cor 12), how can we for one minute think that we can simply park next to each other and have that relationship? Beyond all this, our social interaction and encouragement with one another is something God has emphasized to us. Just think of the way Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36), is praised in scripture and how vital his role was as the churches are first established in Acts. Those who know me personally know that I am not naturally a Barnabas, I am far from that, but myself and many others in the church still strive and know the need for us to encourage one another, to greet one another (Rom 16:16), to be concerned for difficulties (Gal 6:2), and rejoice when one is saved (Acts 8:39). Often times little do we realize the encouragement to others of our own faithful attendance, if you have ever been at a congregation lacking faithful members then you know exactly what I mean. Our own participation in worship is also part of that encouragement (Col 3:16; Eph 5:19). However when we limit the physical interaction of the church to the confines of our own car, aside from greeting the parking attendant, there is no interaction, no fellowship.
No Communion – Granted most denominations today do not see the need for taking part of communion or the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s day as scriptures give example (Act 20:7, 2:42), but communing with folks not even assembled is not part of God’s plan. I suppose if a congregation that did regularly partake communion choose to do the drive-in style worship, it could be taken to each vehicle just as the example I looked at did not dare miss a chance to take up offering, but this still would not define what communion is about. Sure communion is a quiet moment as we reflect upon the sacrifice of or Savior, but it is those we are gathered with as we partake that we are also communing with, realizing that Christ died for them also and how important our unity and cause is (1 Cor 10:17). Again, can we really commune with those we never even intend to meet because we hold ourselves back from fellowshipping. The physical handicaps of an individual may cause one to not meet all the congregation for a portion of time, but those capable of assembly are without excuse.
No Disfellowship – A principle taught in scripture is the need sometimes for disfellowship, it is always difficult to do, but it is a command of God for us to uphold to keep the church pure (1 Cor 5:6) and to bring the sinner to a realization of his need for repentance lest he loose his soul (1 Cor 5:5, II Thes 3:15). The simple question has to be asked, how can we ever practice disfellowship together as a congregation when there was never any fellowship? If no brothers or sister ever spoke to me in my vehicle at church how can I ever be disfellowshiped by them? In the same way the ones who really have to make the tough call to disfellowship that the congregation will follow, the elders who oversee the congregation, how can they even know all the individuals of the church if part of them are not present in person? There has to be some way we keep up with one another, some way we fellowship one another, some way we are held accountable to one another, and in the confines of our car for the physically-able is not the way that will ever work.
The truth be told, Drive-in Church seems to be much more of a tool used by individuals to work their way out of the church rather than an evangelistic tool to really reach the lost. Most individuals are going to use this opportunity at first when it is convenient for their schedule, and perhaps without realizing it until they see no benefit to attending at all. It is a stepping stone out of the church that takes away immediately one of the most important features of the church, our fellowship. There could be many more points made I am sure that a drive-in church just cannot replace. But for those restoring the church of the scriptures, for those in the least health to assemble for a couple hours at a time, there is no option for us to do anything less than assemble with our family in Christ.
“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some…” Heb 10:24-25 NASB
1“Drive-in Church” upbaptist.com. Access date: January 6, 2018. http://www.upbaptist.org/drive-in-church-faq/