This morning on the Sunday Sequence Radio show, I heard that on Tuesday Facebook will launch its version of virtual church. Apparently you click on a link and it’s takes you to a service with all of the traditional elements of a Sunday morning – hymns, readings, prayers and a sermon. The sermon is pre-recorded, and it seems that there is a ‘real time’ way to compliment or criticise the preacher and to interact with the others who are attending – a bit like an online forum, at least that’s what I am imagine. It’s not the only one of its kind – I found this website when I began to research the idea: http://churchoffools.com/
I wait this Facebook newcomer with anticipation, if only to see how to works! Since getting married, Gavin and I have been searching for a church to join together. We haven’t, as yet, been successful. We’ve tried lots – different denominations, different styles and different sizes but we haven’t settled on one.
The problem? People. We have debated the sermons, the way worship is led, the age profile of the congregation and the mission statement – some of those elements we’ve loved and others we have struggled to connect with. But our main issue has been people.
For years, I have heard myself and others make this statement:
‘Church is not a building or location, church is people’
Only now am I really beginning to understand what that means. Our struggle with people is not that they haven’t been welcoming or friendly; it’s that we haven’t been able to find connection. Connection, I am realising, is the key to church. When Gavin and I really look at what we miss about our home congregations, its people. Connection with people who know us and who we know, who love us and who we love, and even those we disagree with but have learned to live along side!
People make church. People make church because people make community and connection – that’s what church should be about. Of course the hymns, sermons, prayers, reading are an important element…but we can now find those on the internet! Community and connection is what brings us to church, keeps us with our church family, and helps us to reach out and grow by encouraging others to join us. I am learning from the outside in (because I am used to being on the ‘inside’ as a member of staff) that great sermons and impressive front stage antics are not the key to opening our doors and engaging with others – people, community and connection are.
I have sat through many sermons and been involved in staff meetings where we wondered how we become ‘more like the Early Church’ and the focus is generally Acts 2:42-47. But when I read it again I see that it’s about fellowship, being together, growing together, sharing together and reaching out together. With that as the basis for what they did, the bible says:
‘And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved’ (Acts 2: 27)
The answer to church is not programs or plans, sermons or services, ministry or mission – its community and connection. The others are important, but in their place. Church is people – people who come together to grow, share, learn and reach out. That seems to be who and what the Early Church where about.
Church on Facebook – it’s an interesting idea and definitely one that is a product of our postmodern world. I guess it has its place and hopefully many will be encouraged and challenged through it, I plan to have a look around it too! But it’s missing the key – real live people. ‘Cyber world’ is no substitute for ‘real world’ connection and community.