It is natural for us to gravitate to what we like, to what we are familiar with, to that with which we feel comfortable. Such as it is with buffet Christianity. In the last few years I’ve noticed an increase in this phenomenon, the pandemic is a partial cause.
When we sit down to a big feast there is often SO MUCH on the table from which to choose that I wind up with only small tastes of everything. Then, if I succumb to the appetite I get my favs as seconds. I choose what I like over that which may be good for me (gravy instead of greens for instance).
For a long time now* we’ve chosen what we like in a congregation, what style we’re comfortable with, how interesting is the preacher, etc. It has down to what we want that drives the decision.
The pandemic sent us to our phones, tablets, and other screens to ‘attend’ our church’s service.
Some of us have never returned to ‘in-person’ because of … well, there are a hundred reasons.
But staying virtual, with no personal connection, is this truly helpful, is it wise? Is it biblical?
One of my fellow disciples put it this way:
To make plain the brilliance [Epiphany y’all! – .ed] of the Gospel. … This can ONLY happen in community. This can not happen in isolation, or on the bike, or in the mountains, or at the beach, etc.
The writers of Hebrews addresses this succinctly:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)
When the writer said this, he meant gathering (that’s essentially what the Greek words for church means) in a congregation. In that congregation we participate, share and are accountable.
Long ago, before all the choices and styles. Jesus’ followers went to church for hope and to receive instruction. For them it was neither an obligation nor a choice, they were so glad to unite with those who also followed Jesus – which, at that time was often dangerous.
So for months now, I’ve been encouraging friends to get serious about getting back to being present with fellow saints. My pastor friends tell me that too many of us are still sitting in front of screens watching. Let’s get IN and among. Yes, be wise in regards to the virus, but when it’s safe, commit to being in the local congregation, it’s biblical and so much better to be seen and engage than the virtual.
* While not exclusive so, this was once a truly American phenomenon. This reality is based on a lot of factors, the increase of types of churches from which to choose. Our choices have take precedence over commitment and submission.