Can We Talk? - Analog Over Digital
I confess, the digital space and virtual world is getting crowded. With the inability to meet as a church, there are many pressures for pastors like me to up our digital game and online presence. Initially, this sounded wise, but I am now feeling that something is not right. It seems everyone is trying to outdo one another with technology, unique insights, and produced content - almost like we are moving to a new type of online megachurch. And once again, the small local churches feel unable to compete.
So, here is what I am coming to believe. If having cool and up to the second online content is what it takes to be the church in this challenging time, I and many other small churches and pastors are doomed. We don't have the time, the money or the techno-geekiness it takes to catch up, keep up and "compete." Frankly, I hate the thought of competing in God's economy. There are some really smart, gifted, famous and experienced communicators out there. I praise God for them, but that is not what I recall God calling me to be. That space is already occupied. With all due respect, how are they going to love my neighbors? Actually, maybe I can do that better, because they are MY neighbors.
From what I can discern, I was called to be a follower of Jesus, a shepherd for our church and a lover of the people in our neighborhood (everyone else too, but these specifically). And while technology can help, I am convinced it can also hinder - hiding behind devices and spending too much time on details versus relationships.
So as I think about it, here is what I believe I can do. I can step up my game in being an analog pastor. What does that mean? Well, I learned to use the phone nearly 6 decades ago - way before most other people on this planet today. I learned to do it back when it was just a phone (not a camera, a voice recorder, a smart online device, etc.). And, praise God, with all the other stuff it can now also do, it is still a phone! I can have real conversations - to listen, to love, to pray in real time. I can do this! In fact, I believe that I have reached out to call or leave messages (mostly voice, but a few text) for virtually everyone in our C3 family this past week. I've touched more people in a week than I did in a month before COVID-19. And it was good for me. I hope it was for you as well.
Despite the civil authority's law telling us to "hunker down," here are two things I know:
1) We may be forbidden from going out to do many things, "but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23.
2) No matter what the opposition - physical, spiritual, etc. - we need to be the church. The church is not a building or event, it is a family. And families need to stay in touch. "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.
So for a time, unfortunately we cannot meet face-to-face or in larger groups. But guess what? Praise God, our phones still work! I will do what I can to connect with you using something I have experience using - my phone. And it works both ways! Can we talk?
~ Pastor Ben