Multi-tasking During Online Worship

Let us face it: online worship is here to stay – for the next two years, at least. Unlike on-site worship, that has established norms that developed over many generations of church culture, online worship has none.


On-site worship service norms are clear and established. Not so with online worship service. A norm is a guideline or expectation of proper behaviour that each society and culture decides as acceptable, and what violates that acceptability, and what to do with that violation. We all know what behaviours are expected in on-site worship services: punctuality, dressing, how to enter the sanctuary, how to sing during worship, or attend to the preaching and what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, before, during and after the worship service. It is taught. It is mostly caught. But everything is new in online worship. It seems many of the guidelines and norms have been held in abeyance or thrown out.


Multi-tasking seems to be the order of the day. While the online worship service is being streamed, or viewed later, viewers could be doing various other things while watching. Since there are no norms for online worship, anything goes! Here are some of the imagined possibilities.

  • Nail clipping or polishing,
  • Having your meal
  • Surfing other channels, websites
  • Answering emails, WhatsApp messages and social media
  • Doing your housework: folding and ironing clothes, vacuuming and mopping the floor, etc
  • Doing your hair or facial routines
  • Preparing meals
  • Chatting on phone or zoom or someone with you
  • Exercising
  • Reading or writing something unrelated.


Multitasking during the online worship service is not something taught by the church. It’s the force of sheer habit and the invasion of a global online culture into the new territory of online worship culture. Since there are no established norms other forces hold sway. We are a people conditioned to require endless stimulation and engagement to stave away boredom and to feel productive and connected and excited. Multitasking gives us these. Since the church gives no guidelines, each person does what is right in his or her eyes, or gropes sincerely in this gap of ambiguity.


A mature Christian would ponder about how to navigate this new territory. If the believer would ponder over the purpose of worship, he should be able to draw some principles upon which to form new norms of online worship for himself or for his or her family.

We know the purpose of worship is for us to glorify God and enjoy Him. We remember the Lord and all he has done for us through his finished work, and respond by giving him thanks and praise, and also to attend faithfully to what he wants to say to us through his Word, his Spirit and his Body. This requires the positioning of our whole body and soul to be actively and wholly involved. This cancels out most multitasking during online worship.

Its hard to imagine Moses multitasking while God spoke to him during his burning bush experience. He was on holy ground – to multitask would akin to tearing out the heart of that encounter, that worship experience. Jesus reproved the Pharisees and scribes, “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me”(Matt 15:8). We cannot afford to let our hearts drift away from God during online worship. St Paul said to the Corinthian church. “I have the right to do anything,” you say – but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive. (1 Cor 10:23 NIV).

The main idea is to participate, to be attentive to, and respond to how the online service is moving your heart, and not merely to watch the whole program like a task to dutifully complete to soothe your conscience, and to have some comment to make in case some leader asks you about it.


This is a difficult word for people to hear. Everyone wants to be in control and do whatever is right in their eyes. This is precisely where coming under Jesus’ rule and kingship cuts the Adamic tentacles of rebellion that still desperately cling to our hearts after our conversion to Christ. Discipleship is not theory. It is very practical. It boils down to how you posture your heart and how you behave in all spheres of thought, speech and conduct. In this instance, we are talking about online worship conduct.

You may disagree with me and I am certainly aware that worshipping online at home becomes a challenge, even a meaningless routine, or worse – a drag – after the initial novelty has worn out.

I fully encourage support of return to on-site worship services. If you cannot do it every Sunday because of safety and other constraints, then less frequently, but seek to resume attendance with your whole body and soul. You can read more about my thoughts regard this HERE.

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Reasons Not to Go Back to On-site Worship Services

After a year of online worship, surely church members must be feeling their connection with God, and the faith community weakening, and are eager to return to on-site worship. 

Yet attendance of on-site worship services is not exactly indicative that God’s people are thirsting for God, the living God. Anecdotal indications are that only 80-90% of possible seating are usually filled, some way or greatly below actual pre-covid-19 attendances. The reasons for members not rushing back to church is not rocket science, and easily spring to mind.


Look at the list of hassles members are free of when they stay home and worship online. They do not have to fight the alarm, rush to make breakfast, shout the kids to hurry, and hope there are seats in the train, or pray for a car park lot. Do not forget to add all the family members, especially kids, into the picture to get an idea of the exponentially reduced logistical headache. Instead, they save time and money, and free themselves from common pre-worship service tensions. They sit comfortably in plush sofas and armchairs hugging cushions or mobiles. They are dressed in their pyjamas and even multi-tasking too. At last, the pastor will not make any snide remarks about being late for worship service, or for irreverent usage of mobiles during it! Very convenient. Very comfortable.


Another reason God’s people are reluctant to rush back to on-site worship services is choice: they get to choose when they want to attend to the worship service, and what they want from it. 

With on-site services, the time is fixed. Members have to show up on time and sit through the whole service from the alpha to the omega. With online worship, they can sleep in every Sunday, and even go out for a lazy breakfast and do marketing, and choose to tune to the online services as it fits their schedule that particular Sunday. They could even access it on Monday evening like microwaved leftover food.

Many members have certain parts of the service that they like more than others. Some members love congregational singing but not the sermon; others it’s the other way around. Still others do not like the “preliminaries” – the call to worship, the songs, the liturgy, the announcements, the offering. They prioritize the teaching of the word. They regard that as the core of worship. For others, it is the Holy Communion. In on-site worship services, they do not get to choose the bits they love, unless they deliberately arrive late every Sunday, or leave early every Sunday, which would be socially unacceptable. With online worship services, the members get to choose what want to consume. Hold the cursor and move it forward to skip whatever they do not like. They fulfil their duty in half the time.


It is indeed by the grace of God that despite less than ideal conditions we are spiritually okay in Christ – and faith, hope and love is sustained by online services and other means of grace. However, members who make their convenience, comfort and preferences the core values that determine their decisions and lifestyle often do not notice that they may be regressing ever so imperceptibly into a lukewarm state. This imperceptible regression happened in the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:15-22), and it can happen today. There is something about embodied on-site worship and community that is sacramental and imparts God’s presence and life.

From a human standpoint all the above reasons sound good and reasonable and desirable. However, from a divine standpoint they can also be at odds with true discipleship and the values of the kingdom.


These are the watchwords of modern consumerism: 


Comfort, and


They have crept into Christendom. Members must watch for these words in their life of discipleship whenever they surface. Watch and pray to discern in what situations they are a help, and in what situations they are a curse; when they draw us closer to God, and when they lure us farther from him; when they increase faith, hope and love; and when they diminish faith, hope and love. If we are not alert to the danger, we will spiral into spiritual complacency.


Certainly, the words of Jesus about what it means to be a disciple cuts across time and space, even cyberspace. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”(Matt 16:24,25). 

Obedience to God is the watchword of disciple’s life, of a life of gratitude for God’s undeserved favour upon us (Eph 2:8-10). Obedience is not a nice abstract idea or thought but an embodied, down to earth, submission to the church leaders God has appointed to serve and watch over the faith community’s spiritual well-being. Since almost all churches in Singapore have called for a return to on-site worship services we should heed this call as God’s people. Members, or rather disciples whose churches have started online worship services must obey their leadership’s call to return to on-site worship services with urgency, energy and sacrifice. It will be inconvenient. It will be uncomfortable. It will be inflexible. But giving up our personal rights in obedience to God is essentially what Jesus called us to.

This is my considered opinion, but do feel free to give your comments so we can have a fuller conversation.

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Restitution at Robinson’s

After Friday’s lunch at Shaw Centre, I went with my wife and a friend to Robinson’s, Singapore’s 162 year old iconic department store. There was a winding down sale. The dame has folded. The shift to online shopping and the covid 19 has taken another victim, with more to follow. I bought a pair of shorts for half-price and my wife bought two blouses at half-price. 


Robinsons brought back many personal memories. I remembered being brought there by better off uncles and aunties as a school-going kid to experience the oohs and aahs of seeing an abundance of stuff you wouldn’t see anywhere else. My mum also liked walking there, even though she could not afford the rather expensive things displayed on the shelves. We could only afford things like bath towels and Airfix, the hobby kit that I was obsessed with, for gluing into plastic models of World War II aircraft. 

I was so caught up in this hobby that I would save my pocket money to buy up different models. Once I was so overtaken by my lust for certain model aircraft, that I stole one or two at Robinson’s and put them among other items that had been bought. One was a Japanese fighter aircraft – the Zero. The other, I have forgotten. 

I remembered how my heart palpitated as I walked out of the department store. I was relieved when I exited the entrance. It was crowded near Christmas time, so I supposed the security couldn’t cope. But my act of theft did not escape God’s eyes. 


Many years later, I would accept Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord. As I followed Jesus in discipleship, I learned about repentance and restitution. Convicted about my past sin of stealing, I wrote a letter to Robinson’s department store and apologized for what I stole from them years earlier in a letter, with the estimated cost of what was stolen in cash attached to the letter. 

Sometime later, I received a letter from Robinson’s with a receipt, informing me that they received my money, and were glad that I turned over a new leaf! For sure if I had a smartphone then, I would have taken a photo of their letter for keepsake. 

Now whenever I looked back at this incident I realize it was an important step for me as a new believer to establish a clear conscience. I would one day be a pastor, and God knew that but not me, not at that stage of my Christian life. When God invites you or convicts you to do something, just do it. It is healing, strengthening and who knows how it may impact others?

Have you done any restitution before? Do share your experience in the comment box.

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Invited to Song of Songs

Song of Songs. That prompting is so slight, so silk, I could have ignored it. But I did not and am thankful for following it. I figured that perhaps it may be the means through which my main prayer for my sabbatical, a deeper love for Jesus,  may get answered. I personally find this  Old Testament book forbidding. I am very much left-brained, and appreciating the Song of Songs is a right-brained activity. It’s like appreciating the poetic lyrics of a popular love song. This is outside my comfort zone. Which is good because at the later part of life we should be moving towards wholeness and wellness, and taking on new frontiers in learning.

I began listening to YouTube videos on appreciating poems and writing and interpreting poems. I listened to David Pawson give an overview of the book. I saved Mike Bickle’s talks on the book. I listened to audio readings of the book. I bought a book titled Love of Loves by Philip Riken, and this week I started to savour the text and talk to the Lord from it. I am excited because the Lord is making the song come alive. I hope it is awakening my love for the Lord. It is making me aware of God’s loving action towards me, His many kisses of love through the many gifts He showered on me. Yes Lord kiss me again and again, till passionate love is awakened in me again, and joy overflows from receiving Your love.

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Young parents discipling children

Young parents sharing their thoughts about discipling children

It was a significant meeting: pastoral team, children’s ministry core leaders, and the young parents. We wanted to share our thoughts about discipling children, the respective roles of the different partners, and our modest hopes and aspirations, and especially to gather feedback from them.

There were a few things I picked up from the feedback they gave:

  • Young parents are deeply appreciative of the dedication, care and sacrifices of children’s ministry lay volunteers.
  • Young parents are eager to disciple their children and give them what’s best for them spiritually and developmentally.
  • Young parents know the importance of their role in discipling parents and want to be better than what their parents were with them.
  • Young parents want to disciple their children but are short on time, energy and know-how to actually do it.
  • Young parents prefer informal learning to formal classroom learning. They rather have a picnic or informal meal with other young parents and be able to exchange ideas, share problems and solutions, and get to know one another and let children grow up together.
  • Young parents want to connect with other young parents at the same stage of parenting as they can identify with and comfort and encourage each other along a similar journey.
  • Young parents find little edification in being part of a cell (which has nothing planned for children) as they would be too occupied with minding their child.

Interesting information and feedback for the pastoral team to ponder over. Wonder what you think of their feedback?


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