The internet has been called “the ultimate connection machine.”
The intricate web catalyzes our connectivity to people and information in ways we never dreamed possible.
But is there a down-side, especially as it relates to experiencing deep church?
Let’s not start off too cranky and critical.
Two potential benefits to “going to church” on the internet, pop immediately to mind.
First, members of our church family get sick. Others travel in our highly mobile society.
The convenience and availability of an internet sermon or blog post can be an avenue of grace to these folks.
Second, we live in a post-Christian culture, where less and less people join churches.
Going to church isn’t part of their cultural cadence.
They see the church as irrelevant with no real “value add” to their life.
And didn’t Jesus say to “Go out into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature?”
“Every” includes even those that consider deep church a waste of time and effort.
By placing a sermon on the internet, an unchurched, skeptical “outsider” to grace can be reached.
They can experience a connection to the story of Jesus and have a “free taste” of the gospel.
So you might say that the internet is not “evil” in and of itself.
In fact, it potentially benefits many.
But is there a dark downside?
Let’s mention one in this blog post and I’ll mention more in future posts.
The first dark downside to primarily going to church on the internet, relates to Gnosticism.
I just threw a strange word at you…and believe me, Gnosticism, a religion that sprung up in the first few centuries of the church, has some strange ideas.
For one, a Gnostic didn’t think matter mattered.
The gnostic religion (gnosis is a word we would translate as “knowledge”) loved knowing things like ideas and concepts, but they despised the physical world.
Things like bodies, dirt, and wiping the runny nose of a toddler made them feel yucky all over.
They taught “dualism” which, just like it sounds, broke the world into a duo of yucky physical things and yummy spiritual things.
Their end game was getting as many downloads of secret knowledge as you could, while at the same time, staying away from bad physical things.
Let’s get back to our discussion about going to church on the internet.
When we listen to a sermon, we are getting a download of data.
But what are we missing?
We are missing a three-dimensional experience with a flesh and blood pastor.
If you got close enough to him on a Sunday, you might even smell the scent of his aftershave or get a whiff of his bad breath.
You would be reminded that he’s a normal human, just like you, and you might even experience the grace of a trusting connection.
Christians have always believed that “matter matters.”
God reached into the mud and made man to be a mirror of his beauty.
God, in Jesus, became flesh and lived with us.
We call this the incarnation or the enfleshing of God.
Gnosticism taught de-incarnation. They were not a fan of things like driving to church, hugging people, and connecting “face to face.”
Jesus, the embodied God, will never take off his physicality and transcend into a cyberspace download.
One day, you and I will touch his scars, see his smile and feel the touch of his hand as he wipes away our tears.
He understands our own scars, those embedded experiences of pressure and pain, better than anyone. And his gathered church is called his body.
I eagerly await the gathering of our church family in worship and fellowship.
In fact, I believe we are most fully human when we move out of isolation and into deep community.
See ya at church,
Metro North Church