On March 15, as the stay-at-home order came down, our elders were faced with a difficult question: how could we keep the flock together when we cannot be together? The answer: technology.
Technology Has Helped
Over the past eleven weeks, cameras and computers have been our church lifeline. Overnight, the website became our bulletin. YouTube our pulpit. E-giving our offering plate. We shared announcements via email and looked to Facebook for fellowship. Without Apple and Android, I am not sure what we would have done.
In some ways, our situation reminds me Acts 8. Persecution came. It was not good. Yet this same persecution spread out the believers so that they could take the gospel to the neighboring nations. If persecution could be used by God to advance the kingdom, surely, He can use a pandemic. I believe He has.
Think about it. These quarantine requirements have resulted in there now being more sermons, gospel messages, and Bible lessons on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram than ever in human history! Wow.
Closer to home, one of our college students wrote me this email:
I wanted to let you know that your sermons online are having a big impact on my family. The church that my parents go to back home is not exactly built on a strong Scriptural or doctrinal foundation, and your messages have really opened their eyes. I think that my mom is starting to have a more complete understanding of the gospel! I have gotten to have some conversations about the importance of personally reading Scripture and the role it plays in shaping the structure and life of the church that would have not happened if it were not for your sermons that you have been posting. I am rejoicing that Covid-19 is advancing the gospel in different ways. Thank you for your faithfulness in spreading the message of Christ
Emails like that make me feel like singing, “Blessed be the binary that binds our hearts in Christian love.” Praise God for technology!
Even though we are beginning to gather in a limited way, YouTube and Facebook will continue to play a significant role in our church’s life in the foreseeable future. We are blessed to have this tool.
Technology Can Hurt
At the same time, I have been reminded that technology has its downside. Consider this Nostradamus-like prediction from John Stott about its potential impact on the church:
It is difficult to imagine the world in the year A.D. 2000, by which time versatile micro-processors are likely to be as common as simple calculators are today. We should certainly welcome the fact that the silicon chip will transcend human brainpower, as the machine has transcended human muscle-power. Much less welcome will be the probable reduction of human contact as the new electronic network renders personal relationships ever less necessary.
In such a dehumanized society the fellowship of the local church will become increasingly important, whose members meet one another, and talk, and listen to one another in person rather than on screen. In this human context of mutual love, the speaking and hearing of the Word of God is also likely to become more necessary for the preservation of our humanness, not less.
Stott wrote those words almost 40 years ago (in 1982)! At-home, virtual worship may seem like a “feature” of the 21st century, but if we are not careful, it may prove to be a “bug.” We must guard ourselves from an overreliance on phones and screens.
Johnny Cash sang a song that said, “Flesh and blood needs flesh and blood…” He was right. Humans were made for fellowship. Genesis 2:18 is still true, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Isolation can keep us biologically safe, but it may come at a spiritual and personal price if we grow comfortable and detached from one another. Let’s fight this temptation in the days ahead.
I am thankful that today has finally arrived! May God give us wisdom so that we can steward technology well, and yet, may He also give us a deep desire to be with one another, sing with one another, and “encourage one another, all the more, as you see the day drawing near!”