After Jesus had died and was resurrected to life, the book of Acts recounts what the disciples and other believers did in obedience to Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, Luke provides a vivid picture of how the early church came together. Acts 2:42-47 reads “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” In this passage, we see a group of believers devoted to being together and learning from God’s Word, fellowship, prayer, seeing the miraculous, giving and sharing generously, and expressing their praise and worship to God. As a result, other people were coming to faith in Christ. Isn’t that an awesome picture?
While times have changed, the basic purposes of the church have not. Though I’m sure the early Christians could not have envisioned livestream services, Zoom bible study/prayer meetings, church podcasts, Facetime, and email devotionals (for those of us born before 1970, I don’t think we could even have imagined how technology has changed the way we interact), yet we are still called to gather together to learn, grow, and do God’s will. In almost every church this past year, technology has been an incredible asset for streaming services, sharing information, and supporting communication. But it is still a far cry from actually doing these things in-person. In business school, we learned that technology, over the course of time, has enabled communication to go from “same time-same place,” where you had to be in one place to hear a message, to “different time-different place,” where now a message can be recorded, made available or sent to someone almost anywhere in the world to be acted upon whenever he or she wants to. And there are huge benefits to “different time-different place” communication, mostly in terms of sharing information, efficiency, and convenience. However, the overall impact and effect is not the same as “same time-same place” when people are together.
Have you ever played phone tag with someone else, exchanging voicemail messages, communicating information but never actually speaking with the other person? In some cases, this makes sense like in a business environment. It’s often more efficient. But it certainly doesn’t do much for the relationship. Have you ever gone to a concert or sporting event and also watched it on TV or your computer? The two don’t compare! Sure it may be more convenient not to have to get dressed up, brush your teeth, and fight the crowd, and you can watch it and fast forward it on your schedule but it’s usually not a better experience. How could it be? The Lord has made us to be with each other and feed off one another’s excitement and energy! Of course there are times in life when we cannot be there in-person (and that’s when technology provides the capability to participate at a different time or place) but the importance of being together and of shared experience, especially as a church body like we saw in Acts 2, cannot be understated. Because we’re on a journey with the Lord together. That’s why the apostle Paul expressed in his letters to various churches his desire to be with them. He knew being together and sharing time with one another would ultimately be more meaningful for the believers than just reading his writings.
Eagerly anticipating the return to some normalcy (first step being this Sunday at 11am when we restart indoor worship service), I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible, and being able to once again learn from God’s Word, fellowship with one another, worship the Lord together, and grow in being the church God wants us to be. Have a blessed week!