This past Sunday my family was in quarantine. My daughter tested positive for COVID so our entire crew sheltered in place just to be overly cautious. As a pastor, it’s a pretty big deal to have to miss a Sunday. A big chunk of the week I am hunkered down in my office working on the sermon for Sunday, meeting with staff, planning different activities or trying to stay awake as I work through various administrative tasks. Now most weeks I can meet with multiple people from our church through lunches or coffee, but Sunday is different. Sunday is the day I get to see with my own two eyes the people that God has called me to lead. In one morning I get to check in on the elderly couple who have had their fair share of struggles; the young couple with the infant who have mustered all of their energy just to show up at church ; and the teenager who got 4 hours of sleep because they were playing Fortnite all night, but hold fast to their commitment to operate a camera. There’s just something about Sunday.
With technology the way it is, it was a blessing to watch the sermon as I sat at home with my family… but it’s not the same. Within 3 minutes of our Sunday Celebration starting our 3 year old was frustrated and wanting a snack, a few minutes later the dog was chewing on someone’s brand new shoe and my middle child needed an in depth reason why this wasn't an appropriate time to play Minecraft on the his Nintendo DS.
Online ministry is crucial. It can position our church to minister to those unable to attend, help people stay connected when they are out of town, and provide a crucial first impression for people looking for a new church to attend. It matters … but it’s not the same.
All too often we can slip into the view that going to church is simply viewing content - like a good podcast or a video on YouTube, but it’s so much more than that. Yes, I got to hear the worship and listen to my friend preach a sermon in my place, but I missed out on so much. I didn’t get to sit next to Tristan for a couple of minutes to see how his week at work was in the hospital. I didn’t get to ask Josh or William how preparation for their Christmas Concert in band is going. I didn’t get to have a quick conversation with Miss Patty as she prepared the donuts and coffee. I didn’t get to check in with Gale and Barbara or Bob and Lisa to see how all their doctor visits went this week. I didn’t get to hear Sydney tell my wife something amazing that happened at work this week or talk with Chad about how his midweek volunteer ministry is going. I didn’t get to stand in our volunteer huddle 30 minutes before service starts and look into the eyes of the people I love, encourage them, pray for them and send them off to their posts as they ministered to others. I didn’t get to be with The Church.
I need human interaction. As a Christian, I need human interaction with fellow believers. I need the encouragement they offer me, the opportunities that come to serve them and the sharpening of the faith they can provide me. Church is not consuming content. Church is a group of Christians working hard to love one another, serve one another and spur one another on in the faith. And while some of that can definitely be accomplished online through a zoom call… it’s not the same.
Lord willing our quarantine will be over by Sunday. I can’t wait!