I’m thankful for technology and the people who know how to use it. I never would’ve dreamed I’d be preaching from my study with the doors closed and the kids trying to keep as quiet as possible. Nor did I ever think I would be able to see and speak with everyone in the assembly from the comfort of our basement couch. I have great appreciation and respect for those who have worked earnestly and with good motives to use technology to help the Lord’s people during unprecedented times. But even with reliable connection speeds, we all still feel quite unconnected.
As assembly shepherds scrambled to provide food for the flock during the global pandemic, the options were few and less than perfect. But the command to elders in Scripture still holds: “The elders which are among you I exhort … Feed the flock of God” (1Pe 5:1-2 KJV; see also Act 20:28). Sheep won’t last long without food, and certainly not for months on end. And Peter’s exhortation (which he received from the Lord in John 21) doesn’t include a 90-day exemption for pestilence.
Therefore, many shepherds have used the technology available in our day to attempt to fill a definite void. After all, even though it’s hard to virtually shepherd, it’s quite easy for the devil to virtually destroy. Care for the flock is critical. Some shepherds have sent emails, providing food in the form of written ministry to believers within the assembly. Others have posted recorded audio messages to supply at least some spiritual nourishment. Many of us Zoomed in to see and visit with fellow believers and to watch online preaching for a bit of spiritual nutrition. The criticism of any of these forms of feeding seems a bit harsh and unfair to elders doing their best to obey the exhortation to feed and care for the flock. My soul has been refreshed often, enjoying the spiritual food provided by my brothers in Christ during these difficult days.
But I have to admit, I’m all Zoomed out, and I suspect many of you are also. The plummeting number of attendees to many of our online events is proof enough that there’s nothing like the real thing. A Zoom meeting is not an assembly meeting, nor can it ever be. And even though every person in the assembly might be logged in, there will always be one Person who is not. That’s not to say that the Lord didn’t or won’t provide spiritual food through such technological means, especially under extenuating circumstances. But we need to honestly recognize that a congregation in cyberspace is a far cry from the real thing. The joy and blessing of physically gathering as an assembly cannot be replicated in any virtual format.
So as the doors of our meeting places reopen, let’s resolve to be found together with the Lord’s people as we once were, and be content to consider online gatherings a memory belonging to troublesome times.