Thinking Out Loud

June 21, 2018

Knowing the Family: Church Name Tags

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:15 am

Yesterday, on another blog I write for, the question of name tags came up. I checked to see if we had ever covered anything like that here, and the closest we came was a few months ago when we looked at church family photo directories, here and here.

I recognize that for many of you this is a rather superficial subject, but increasingly, I think that people like to have a name to associate with the people with whom they are having fellowship or engaging in worship. When the “turn around and shake hands and welcome each other” part of the service kicks in — and we can debate that in another article in future — my go to posture if I don’t know the people is to say, “Hi, my name is Paul.”

I feel that people want to know who you are more than have their right hand shaken for two seconds.

Admittedly the photo directory covers some of this. If you’re church isn’t huge, you can page through the thing and associate names and faces before ever having the first conversation.

Social media also makes a difference. Many are connected on Facebook, etc., and you’ve seen your friends’ friends’ pictures previously. (Yes, that was the correct use of the possessive apostrophe.)

So would name tags help?

We wear them at conferences, where it’s assumed people from many different locations are converging together. This is often helpful over the course of a week or weekend, but of course we might never see those people again.

The Mormons have them as standard issue. A friend of mine actually made his own when trying to infiltrate a local Mormon congregation. I’m not sure it was effective, but he did stuff like that. (I wish I could tell you more!)

I attended a church once that used them. You left them in a rack and picked them up when you arrived and pinned them on upon arrival. After about 12 months (or less in my case) people just got tired of it, though some people kept using them for several more years. After the first season of use, everybody knew everybody by then.

And that’s just the point. Fellowship and getting to know each other should occur organically. We shouldn’t have to organize what should happen naturally in the body of Christ. It doesn’t need a level of administration.

Next thing you know you’re taking all the songs you sing regularly and putting them in a book! Oh wait, that happened, didn’t it? And then the churches went through a period of only singing what was in the hymnbook and it was more difficult to introduce new songs.

I would argue that formalizing the getting-to-know process would do the same. Rather, tell me your name, and then tell me more; a little about yourself, your family, where you live, what you work at, how long you’ve been attending the church.

 

 

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May 18, 2017

The Case for Online Church Community

Like “real” church though, you need to be all in…

I wrote this almost exactly eight years ago. At the time, what I had in view was the blogging community to which I had become a part. The word podcast wasn’t in my vocabulary though there was a healthy choice of online sermons on demand. There weren’t so many full service broadcasts (live or delayed) back then because of a nervousness concerning the worship song copyrights.

Also, more blogs allowed comments back then, and people engaged more. Today comments are closed at many sites and you also have a number of key bloggers who migrated to Twitter and other platforms. To relive those days, check out our post from Monday, A Golden Age of Christian blogging.

For those of you reading this on a PC, or subscribers who have always wondered, the default font for this blog’s theme is very small and to this day we take a minute to manually enlarge every paragraph. However, for a few years we also were putting everything in bold face as well.

Remember, this was all about community. It doesn’t purport to address the five other things I see as central to actually showing up in person at a physical church: Corporate worship, corporate prayer for others, potential prayer for your own needs and concern, corporate giving, and communion. I also think the level of personal accountability is higher when you’re there in person. 

I do know there are people for whom physical attendance at weekend worship is currently impossible for a wide variety of reasons. For those of you in that category, I hope you will endeavor to develop the type of online community I had in view when I wrote this. Many churches now have a online pastor to cater to the needs of those who don’t attend in person. 

Two “finallys”: Again, remember that I wrote this at a time when I envisioned the blog community becoming a surrogate church for some (which it did.) Also remember there’s nothing new about this; for generations the church wrestled with the issue of people dropping out on Sunday mornings to stay home and watch services on television. (I wonder what that would have looked like if it had a chat or discussion option as did blogging?) 

How can online churches better address the issue of community?

If your background is mainline

At a certain part of the service there is a time set aside for “the passing of the peace.” You greet one another with a hug or a handshake (or in a few places, a “holy” kiss) and say, “The peace of Christ,” or “The peace of Christ be with you.” In reply the other might say the same, or say, “And to you also;” or “And to you also, the peace of Christ.” If the church is smaller, you know these people, at least by name, but if it’s larger or it’s tourist season, you may not know them at all.

After the service there is a time when coffee and juice is served and you can engage people conversationally for about five minutes; usually people you already know. For an extended time like this, don’t miss the pancake breakfast and the strawberry tea held each year.

To get to know people a little deeper, or other people, you can join the choir, or volunteer for a host of guilds or committees that are always in need of help. You’ll also find a lot of the same people serve on civic projects and thereby will run into them in other contexts outside of the church itself. Don’t expect to break into the core community until you’re a “regular,” which occurs after you’ve attended and been involved for a gazillion years.

If your background is Evangelical

At a certain part of the service there is a time set aside for “greeting” or it may be formalized as “the ritual of friendship.” You greet one another with a hug or a handshake and say, “Good Morning;” or “Did you happen to catch the game yesterday?” In reply the other might say the same, or say, “Is that a new car I saw in the parking lot?” If the church is smaller, you might know these people, at least by name, or if it’s a mid-sized church, you can look them up in the photo directory when you get home.

After the service there is a time when coffee and juice is served and you can engage people conversationally for about five minutes; usually people you already know. For an extended time like this, don’t miss the annual potluck lunch and the annual bowling night.

To get to know people a little deeper, there isn’t a lot to volunteer for, since everything is done by the paid staff. The mens’ and womens’ retreats would help, but that’s $120 and $130 respectively. Better to join a small group. That way you’ll get to spend time in at least one person’s house each week, and get to know them and about four other families (or eight other singles) more intimately.

If your option is blogging community

There is a possibility that there will be people in your fellowship who you do not have any idea what they look like, or exactly where they live. However, you don’t have to wait for an opportunity to engage conversationally. Those opportunities occur at any time and may produce a variety of responses from a variety of people.

Through those conversations you will learn about their likes and dislikes, events in the life of their family, where they stand on a variety of issues, and what challenges and needs they face. You’ll possibly learn the names of — or see pictures of — their kids or their parents, be given insights into their job, and you’ll almost certainly know a little about every book they’ve read since they started blogging. And they’ll know the same about you.

You may find very quickly that their prayer requests become your prayer requests; you feel drawn to the needs of these people as one might with someone in their church family. If Twitter enters into the picture, you’ll know even more about their daily routine, the various thoughts and challenges that burst into the brain brought about by various stimuli. And if you Twitter, they’ll have that input from you also.

Plus, they will introduce you to their online friends, and you might pick a few of those to subscribe to or at least bookmark, and over time, perhaps their friends will become your friends also. It’s not unusual to pick up e-mail addresses from comments you’ve received and send out some off-the-blog messages. (In fact, two weeks ago, I sent out about 60 such e-mails about a project I wanted to get going that needed an off-the-blog start-up.)

Finally, if you want to get really hardcore, you might find yourself contemplating attending a bloggers event which sometimes take place in conjunction with other events, and at other times are stand-alone events. Not because online fellowship is insufficient, but simply because the relationships are already well established. (And nobody’s pretending to be a 17-year old girl from Ohio; at least I hope not!)

So at the end of the day, online community isn’t better or worse than Sunday church fellowship; it’s just different. And I would argue it’s a good different. One can’t entirely substitute for the other, and hopefully people using online community as a surrogate for a physical community that is currently absent from their life would, over time, find themselves drawn back to something resembling a church or house church; and then maintain a balance between the two relational paradigms.

March 10, 2017

House Party: Barbecue, Pool, a Movie, and “We’re having a guest preacher.”

It’s a summer weekend. You invite a few friends over to use the pool, enjoy a barbecue, and watch a movie on DVD. Oh, and you’ve also invited a preacher who will sit everyone down in the living room for a 40 minute sermon. Wait, what? Wouldn’t an Amway Ambush be better than listening to a sermon?

While your swim, burger, and film night might include comfortable chairs, popcorn, refreshments, etc. in 2017, inviting a preacher might have been the equivalent type of party in the 18th century.

Victorian ParlourWhile reading 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas a few years ago, I encountered the term parlor preaching, or if you prefer, the more Anglicized spelling, parlour preaching. Apparently William Wilberforce’s family would have John Newton over for the evening as a guest speaker. If magicians can do parlor tricks, I suppose pastors can parlor preach.

A short trip to a few search engines later, I am not a whole lot wiser on this subject. How widespread was this type of social event? Was it the province of the aristocracy or upper class, or could anyone commission the pastor for a thousand words of exegesis and exhortation?

Though it seems to harken back to a long bygone era, I love the concept. I just can’t see anyone pulling this off successfully today, especially if you get the kind of preacher whose voice raises when he gets passionate. The sermon, as an art form is slowly fading. Rhetoric in general is getting lost in a world of txt msgs and 140-character Tweets. Most party invitees don’t want to arrive at your home only to find they’re at church.

With the absence of information we have to do some guessing. My money’s on this phenomenon as being more church service than small group, but as one-off event. A theological education was highly prized and respected, so the type of interactive format we enjoy in small groups wouldn’t be as likely to occur. You certainly would never offer an alternative view and you might not feel comfortable asking a question, either. At best, you’d save it until afterwards when tea was served.

But it could have resembled house church. There would be a piano in the parlor (aka ‘front room’ or what we would call the ‘living room’) so possibly there could be some singing, with the latest worship songs being transmitted from place to place via printed sheet music (no doubt, CCLI song #5) followed by something the preacher had prepared. Start time and dress would be less formal than Sundays and probably children (if present) would be free to sit on the carpet.

Again, I’m making all this up because there is very little corroboration online for this. If you know differently, please fill the rest of us in.

We do this today, sometimes inviting friends over to watch a sermon podcast, though we have the freedom of hitting the pause button. Today, we don’t expect our pastors to be suburban circuit-riders, in fact pastoral home visitation in general is going extinct, a topic for another article, I suppose.

Still, I would love to travel back in time to be part of one of those informal house meetings; a kind of house concert with a spiritual orator instead of a singer. I’ll bet the preaching would be first-class.

November 26, 2016

Always Something There to Remind Me

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:48 am

reminderEvery Thursday afternoon I get an email from my church reminding me what’s happening at weekend services. It’s somewhat the same every week — I’ve told them a weekly verse of scripture and a graphic people can use on their Instagram and Facebook accounts would help — but it’s definitely appreciated. (Someone even takes the time to make sure things happening between its arrival and Sunday morning are covered for one last time.)

We live in a world where we need to be reminded of things. We’re too busy. We’re too forgetful.

For years in my early 20s I attended a weekly Bible study that was held in a private home and wasn’t associated with a particular church. Each week the leader would phone, remind me, and then ask for a direct commitment; “Will you be there this week?” He was a very busy guy in the commercial banking industry and besides leading the study, he took time to phone the entire list every week. By doing so he had extra contact with us. (I look back now and see it as the equivalent of the traditional ‘pastor at the door’ thing on Sunday mornings.)

This morning I attended a men’s Bible study at another church. I mentioned that it’s too bad they don’t have a phone list, or better yet, an email list. This particular church has leveraged social media well; they have a good person at the helm of this who knows the internet, but her particular strategy has been more Facebook-oriented whereas I still see that as skewing slightly more to a female demographic. I believe traditional email might work well to remind the guys to come for the breakfast.

This church also doesn’t have a church directory which includes email addresses. The church I mentioned first does do this and it allows people to continue the conversations started on Sundays throughout the week; to initiate contact; or to follow up with friends they haven’t seen in awhile.

But back to reminders: I think we need them. We also need the encouragement to join in on various church activities in a general social climate where many find themselves isolated.


Related: Here are three devotionals which deal with our tendency to forget.

Tangentially: Email bulletins reduce the number which need to be printed each week, thereby saving the environment. Phone calls to ministry group members also reduce the need for printed bulletin inserts.

 

March 20, 2016

Why Go To Church?

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:26 pm

 

Going to church

As I was driving to a worship service this morning, I heard a voice in my head asking, “Why are you going to church?”

I should explain that the voice wasn’t coming from someone with horns wearing a red suit and holding a pitchfork, but rather it was the voice of a repeated self-examination that I often do while making the ten minute drive.

I know there are various stock-in-trade answers to that question. To engage in corporate worship our creator and sustainer. To take time apart from the world and work. To honor God’s day. To fellowship with other believers. To partake of Communion. To give. To pray for those in need. To be prayed for.

Those are all good answers.

Ultimately the answer I find myself coming up with lately is:

Because it’s better than not going.

Let me say that (a) I know some will think that sounds lame, and (b) some will think that is simply an answer that is incorporating the collective aspects of the other usual answers, or the absence of experiencing those benefits. But I have to say that in my Christian life, I’ve seen the effect on people of choosing not to attend weekend services, and I’ve known in my own life the emptiness I feel during a week that didn’t start out with a gathered assembly of believers.

As you face the options of various Good Friday and Easter Sunday services in the week ahead, and consider factors like having to attend at a different hour, or facing parking congestion, or maybe just having visitors sit in your seat (!) let me suggest that the other option — staying home — is just not your best choice.

Go. Go expectantly. Ask God to meet you there. Ask what he has for you to hear. Ask him to show you someone to speak to that you can encourage.

And don’t just attend. Be all there; be all in.

March 3, 2013

House Concerts, Only With Preachers

So you invited a few friends over to watch a movie on DVD this weekend. Comfortable chairs, popcorn, refreshments, right? But what might have been the equivalent in the 18th century.

Victorian ParlourWhile reading the forthcoming 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas, I encountered the term parlor preaching, or if you prefer, the more Anglicized spelling, parlour preaching. Apparently William Wilberforce’s family would have John Newton over for the evening as a guest speaker. If magicians can do parlor tricks, I suppose pastors can parlor preach.

A short trip to a few search engines later, I am not a whole lot wiser on this subject. How widespread was this type of social event? Was it the province of the aristocracy or upper class, or could anyone commission the pastor for a thousand words of exegesis and exhortation?

Though it seems to harken back to a long bygone era, I love the concept. I just can’t see anyone pulling this off successfully today, especially if you get the kind of preacher whose voice raises when he gets passionate. The sermon, as an art form is slowly fading. Rhetoric in general is getting lost in a world of txt msgs and 140-character Tweets. Most people would rather arrive at your home to find an Amway ambush than to be made to feel they’re at church.

With the absence of information we have to do some guessing. My money’s on this phenomenon as being more home church than small group. A theological education was highly prized and respected, so the type of interactive format we enjoy in small groups wouldn’t be as likely to occur. You certainly would never offer an alternative view and you might not feel comfortable asking a question, either. At best, you’d save it until afterwards when tea was served.

More likely, it would have resembled house church. There would be a piano in the parlor (aka ‘front room’ or what we would call the ‘living room’) so probably there would be some singing, with the latest worship songs being transmitted from place to place via printed sheet music  (no doubt, CCLI song # 12) followed by something the preacher had prepared. Start time and dress would be less formal than Sundays and probably children (if present) would be free to sit on the carpet.

Again, I’m making all this up because there is very little corroboration online for this. If you know differently, please fill the rest of us in.

We do this today, sometimes inviting friends over to watch a sermon DVD. But we don’t expect our pastors today to be suburban circuit-riders, in fact pastoral home visitation in general is going extinct.

Still, I would love to travel back in time to be part of one of those informal house meetings; a kind of house concert with a spiritual orator instead of a singer. I’ll bet the preaching would be first-class.

May 6, 2012

A Word Fitly Spoken in the Right Time

This morning during the coffee time between services, I wandered into the auditorium, which I discovered was mostly empty except for a young guy sitting in the back row. We know each other, but I doubt we’ve ever really conversed before. I told him I’d heard he had moved away, but had noticed him back at church for the last few months.

He told me that things hadn’t been going well where he moved, and the environment wasn’t conducive to maintaining healthy habits.  After some general conversation, I came right out and asked him, “How’s it going spiritually?”

He then told me he was really seeking some kind of spark to re-energize his faith; and little did I know that in the ten minutes that followed, I would — hopefully as the seed of our conversation has time to sprout — be that spark. (Yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors in the same sentences, seeds and sparks.)

He told me he was going to go home and get back into his Bible with fresh enthusiasm and understanding. I hope that happens. Pray for “M.”

At any rate, I really felt good about our brief time together, and I truly believe there was a real connection made.  Here’s why I think it worked:

  1. He was willing to be upfront about his situation, admitting his vulnerabilities, and revealing that his life was at a turning point.
  2. I was willing to take a risk by moving the conversation past the superficial and toward asking him as to his spiritual health.
  3. He seemed generally receptive, spiritually hungry and open.
  4. I was hopefully able to offer some solid information and not just general encouragement.

We could have easily talked about a number of subjects, but I really felt a nudge to move the conversation deeper.

The title of today’s post is from Proverbs 25:11 in the KJV. In The Message it reads:

The right word at the right time
   is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.

The NLT says:

Timely advice is lovely,
    like golden apples in a silver basket.

November 14, 2010

Church Fellowship: The Cheers Factor

Filed under: Church, family — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:18 pm

I am having a weird 24 hours.

Yesterday, for an hour mid-afternoon, I attended the 50th anniversary of my high school.   It was a large school and 50 years is a long time, so the traffic a mess as was the parking.    I brought along my trophy wife with the intention of showing her off, but she couldn’t handle the crowds or the heat.   (With 50 years of anecdotal history, the janitors still cannot anticipate the weather, and the HVAC system was pumping out record amounts of unnecessary warmth.)

I guess the shocker of the day was that everybody seemed genuinely glad to see me.   At least that was my impression.   Maybe time heals all wounds, though I couldn’t actually think of any wounds that needed healing.

Looking back, I think what was striking me was the contrast between this and the reaction I often get at some churches.   There seems to be an awkward feeling waiting to be experienced when you enter certain houses of worship.

I’m not alone in this.  My wife and I have compared notes.  I’ve also heard it from others, including the couple that simply stood against a wall during one church’s protracted fellowship and coffee time in the lobby, just to see if anyone would speak to them.   Nobody did.

Maybe our ideals are too… well… idealistic.   Perhaps they’ve been shaped by a mis-reading of the New Testament that left us with the warped impression that the church should consist of brothers and sisters who demonstrate their desire to follow Christ by a love for each other.   John’s gospel and epistles are notable for spreading that particular suggestion.

Or perhaps it is because some people who come to church also go to bars, and recognize that there is more genuine fellowship in the average pub than there is in many of our churches.

I blame Cheers.  Or more accurately, its theme song:

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

Those words are, like, scripture to me.   It’s a picture of the Body of Christ in its ideal and intended form.   A place of welcome, commonality, and, though not explicit in the lyrics, grace.

That’s the what of Cheers, the first verse is actually the why of Cheers:

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you’ve got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sadly, the rest of the lyrics, aren’t quite so inspirational.  (See the comments section.)

Still it’s good to feel wanted.   Someone once said that “home is the place that, when you go there, they have to take you in.”   Church should be like a home.   Someone else said, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”  Church should be like a family, where acceptance isn’t dependent on personal preferences.

Today I experienced some of that family and home feeling.   I know some of you are too jaded to make the effort.   I would urge you to keep trying.

And here’s some additional wisdom:  If you’re doing Sunday morning church but not journeying with some people in a small group; may I suggest that you not do the mega (or large) church thing.  Seriously.   If mid-week, house-based groups are an impossibility right now, keep your Sunday thing small and manageable with people you can get to know.

It may not have a superstar preacher or a studio-quality worship band, but hopefully you’ll get closer to authentic relationships with fellow pilgrims.

August 16, 2010

Probability of Participation

My wife and I are both creative types who are always hatching ideas, but we also realize that sometimes you have to throw dozens of ideas against the wall before you get one that sticks.

Although there are some churches trying to meet the needs of the people they serve, there are not a lot of choices in a small town for fellowship, teaching or service; so many people fall through the cracks.

But the other aspect of this is that, in order to succeed, you need to know there will be a “buy in” factor; that the thing you’re doing has a chance of succeeding.

We’re currently looking at an idea, which in order to take shape needs three things:

  1. People — or at least one key leadership person besides ourselves
  2. Place — this concept requires a location that hasn’t existed before
  3. Potential — we need to know that we have some odds for success

I’ve just checked the weather forecast to make sure I can hang laundry outside today.   The thing I’m concerned about is the Probability of Precipitation.   The thing I’m concerned about in ministry is the Probability of Participation.

We have a (somewhat cynical) church planter friend who claims that in the U.S., if you want to plant a church, you just set up a sandwich board sign outside the building you want to use that says,

New Church

Starting Here

This Sunday

10:00 AM

and you’re guaranteed at least 100 people.   I know not every planter would concur with that, but it seems to be that the U.S. experience differs greatly from what we see here in Canada, where, all conditions being equal, you might not get anyone.

But there are needs, and I believe that as long as you’re aware that there are needs, you have to keep trying, even when the Probability of Participation is very, very low.


May 18, 2010

Community: At Church versus Online

This first appeared here a year ago, but for new readers, I thought it was worth a second look.

If your background is mainline

At a certain part of the service there is a time set aside for “the passing of the peace.” You greet one another with a hug or a handshake (or in a few places, a “holy” kiss) and say, “The peace of Christ,” or “The peace of Christ be with you.” In reply the other might say the same, or say, “And to you also;” or “And to you also, the peace of Christ.” If the church is smaller, you know these people, at least by name, but if it’s larger or it’s tourist season, you may not know them at all.

After the service there is a time when coffee and juice is served and you can engage people conversationally for about five minutes; usually people you already know. For an extended time like this, don’t miss the pancake breakfast and the strawberry tea held each year.

To get to know people a little deeper, or other people, you can join the choir, or volunteer for a host of guilds or committees that are always in need of help. You’ll also find a lot of the same people serve on civic projects and thereby will run into them in other contexts outside of the church itself. Don’t expect to break into the core community until you’re a “regular,” which occurs after you’ve attended and been involved for a gazillion years.

If your background is Evangelical

At a certain part of the service there is a time set aside for “greeting” or it may be formalized as “the ritual of friendship.” You greet one another with a hug or a handshake and say, “Good Morning;” or “Did you happen to catch the game yesterday?” In reply the other might say the same, or say, “Is that a new car I saw in the parking lot?” If the church is smaller, you might know these people, at least by name, or if it’s a mid-sized church, you can look them up in the photo directory when you get home.

After the service there is a time when coffee and juice is served and you can engage people conversationally for about five minutes; usually people you already know. For an extended time like this, don’t miss the annual potluck lunch and the annual bowling night.

To get to know people a little deeper, there isn’t a lot to volunteer for, since everything is done by the paid staff. The mens’ and womens’ retreats would help, but that’s $120 and $130 respectively. Better to join a small group. That way you’ll get to spend time in at least one person’s house each week, and get to know them and about four other families (or eight other singles) more intimately.

If your option is blogging community

There is a possibility that there will be people in your fellowship who you do not have any idea what they look like, or exactly where they live. However, you don’t have to wait for an opportunity to engage conversationally. Those opportunities occur at any time and may produce a variety of responses from a variety of people.

Through those conversations you will learn about their likes and dislikes, events in the life of their family, where they stand on a variety of issues, and what challenges and needs they face. You’ll possibly learn the names of — or see pictures of — their kids or their parents, be given insights into their job, and you’ll almost certainly know a little about every book they’ve read since they started blogging. And they’ll know the same about you.

You may find very quickly that their prayer requests become your prayer requests; you feel drawn to the needs of these people as one might with someone in their church family. If Twitter enters into the picture, you’ll know even more about their daily routine, the various thoughts and challenges that burst into the brain brought about by various stimuli. And if you Twitter, they’ll have that input from you also.

Plus, they will introduce you to their online friends, and you might pick a few of those to subscribe to or at least bookmark, and over time, perhaps their friends will become your friends also. It’s not unusual to pick up e-mail addresses from comments you’ve received and send out some off-the-blog messages. (In fact, two weeks ago, I sent out about 60 such e-mails about a project I wanted to get going that needed an off-the-blog start-up.)

Finally, if you want to get really hardcore, you might find yourself contemplating attending a bloggers event which sometimes take place in conjunction with other events, and at other times are stand-alone events. Not because online fellowship is insufficient, but simply because the relationships are already well established. (And nobody’s pretending to be a 17-year old girl from Ohio; at least I hope not!)

So at the end of the day, online community isn’t better or worse than Sunday church fellowship; it’s just different. And I would argue it’s a good different. One can’t entirely substitute for the other, and hopefully people using online community as a surrogate for a physical community that is currently absent from their life would, over time, find themselves drawn back to something resembling a church or house church; and then maintain a balance between the two relational paradigms.

A year later, I’m convinced that one of the problems in the Body of Christ is that we truly don’t know each other. You can attend a megachurch and be in a crowd of thousands yet feel completely alone. There is a desire to know others and be known. Or, as the theme from Cheers reminds us, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name / And they’re always glad you came.”

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