Coincidence?…each week I post the next question in A.S.K – the past couple of weeks have been questions that directly relate to issues coming from the coronavirus pandemic. Last week we looked at worry. This week we look at the Internet and church community. Why is that relevant to the pandemic? Because I have been surprised and more than a little concerned at how many Christian leaders think that it doesn’t matter too much if church meetings are closed because after all we can Livestream and have virtual church….this question deals a little with that.
BIBLE READING: Hebrews 10:19-25
TEXT: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
The Internet is a massive development which Christians need to think about; as important in the 21st Century as the invention of the printing press was in the 16th. So thank you for your question that highlights one very important aspect – how does it impact upon our building Christian community?
I am writing this in Sydney where every day I take the train into Moore College. Every day the story is the same – the train is filled with people glued to their phones. Maybe people never did talk on trains, but they certainly don’t now. Even at sporting events, the cinema and church, people are often on their phone. I find my phone and laptop – through which I access the Internet – to be a great boon to life. I have maps, radio, music, sermons, talks, address books, actual books, articles, praise and so much more. I can easily ‘find’ my family and through the wonders of Skype and social media speak to friends and family in almost every country in the world. It’s a great gift. And it’s a great curse.
The Internet gives us lots of information –but it doesn’t give us wisdom. It provides us with entertainment but at such a level that we are far too easily distracted. Tony Reinke in our recommended book cites the philosopher Douglas Groothuis who says “It is difficult to serve God with our heart, soul, strength and mind when we are diverted and distracted and multi-tasking everything”; and Bruce Hindmarsh who adds, “Our spiritual condition today is one of spiritual ADD”.
The big issue in terms of our question is that the Internet is supposed to connect us with the whole world. But in reality it ends up disconnecting us from those around us. Just sit in a restaurant and watch a family who are supposed to be having a nice night out together – how often are they just staring at their phones? Personal confession time – I think that I am someone who has become so addicted to my phone that it makes me rude and disconnects me from people and the world around. How can it be otherwise if you are constantly walking around with your buds in your ear and your eyes on your screen?
We need to build community. We need family and friends. And we need to ensure that our church communities are a great place to be friends and family. The Internet can be a tool to help us with that, but we always need to remember that it is a great servant but a terrible master. In terms of church community – we don’t need ‘internet church’ just as we don’t need Facebook friends. I have over 10,000 ‘friends’ on social media – but they are not real friends. I don’t know the vast majority of them. We don’t need those kind of friends – we need real ones. We also don’t need followers – we need to follow Christ.
Knowing how to build a Christian community that upholds Christian values, as the family of God is not that difficult. The Bible tells us. We need the Word of God (the Bible), prayer and meeting together as we share in the fellowship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As we meet together we encourage one another. That is why the church is so important. You don’t get to self-select your friends in church – every believer is your brother and sister. We can’t just ‘defriend’ them – we are obliged to love them – and they us.
It is little wonder that there is so little Christian community when we think that church is something that we go to for one hour per week, rather than something that we are all the time. This is not an excuse to stay away from the public gathering of the Lord’s people and public worship, but rather a reason to go all the more. Every time you gather with God’s people to hear God’s Word, to sing his praises and to pray with and for his people, you are encouraging and building Christian community. Every time you stay away you are discouraging and deconstructing that community that you so long for.
CONSIDER: How much time do you spend on the Internet? How much time do you spend on your phone/computer? Is there an addiction problem? How do you think that can be cured? What are the ways that you think you could help build Christian community?
RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING: 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You – Tony Reinke
PRAYER: O Lord, we thank you for the gift of the Internet and all the joy and opportunities it brings. But we confess, as with all things, that we are so prone to take what is good and use it for something evil. We pray that our linking to the ‘worldwide web’ would not take us away from the community of your people. Help us to be faithful members of a local church and to serve and build up your body there, for Your glory, Amen.
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