Things are so weird, right now, for the church and those who lead her ministry. For weeks now, we’ve all been scrambling to figure out how to transfer ministry from our normal, face-to-face environment into an entirely online (or in some cases, drive-in) experience.
We’ve done well. Tons of churches have started live streaming their services who weren’t doing so before. Each Sunday, because of the nature of social networking, more people are being exposed to the gospel than perhaps at any other time in history. We’re figuring out how to overcome the awkwardness of classes and groups meeting virtually in video-based chats rather than in classrooms and living rooms.
But something is still missing, isn’t it? And it’s okay to acknowledge what is missing and to mourn and grieve it. In fact, it’s healthy to do so.
The Apostle John wrote three short epistles during a time when he was presumably separated from his beloved church family (or families). In the second letter, he voices what we’re all feeling right now:
I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
~ 2 John 12 NIV
I can feel the pathos of John’s words and can echo them in my own context as, I have much to say to you, but I’m tired of using cameras and Facebook and Zoom. I want to visit face to face!
What really grabs me is John’s comfort in expressing that things aren’t complete without this face to face fellowship. In other words, online ministry is a great addition to what we do as a church, but it’s always going to fall short of completeness. It’s never going to be as fulfilling as that which is face to face and personal.
It’s healthy to own what’s real and what we feel. It’s unhealthy to just keep smiling and pretending that what we do online is enough. It’s not enough. It’s good that we mourn the loss of the way things were and crave with deep hunger the comfort and blessing of human touch – the hugs, the handshakes, the eye-to-eye expressions of concern and care.
And it’s especially good that we long for real connection and reconnection. This, to me, is part of the revival sweeping through God’s people. It’s a humbling before God, a desire to honor and worship the King, the effort of sharing our faith, and it’s also a hunger for real, face to face encouragement.
We will get through this. We will gather again. And our joy will be more complete.