"There can be no Christianity without community." - Nikolaus von Zinzendorf
Just the other day there were lots of articles written concerning the 50th anniversary of the internet. There were four computers that took up huge rooms in a few universities out West. They were able to transmit a word from one computer to the next through a program known as ARPA. In essence, the internet was born. There is a neat timeline on the development of the internet here. So, here were are in 2019 with more computing power in our pockets than the computer that initially sent people to the moon. The times...'they are a changing.'
There are some reasons to celebrate. There are also some reasons to mourn. The internet has made some things easier and more enjoyable. It has also made some things harder. I think this is especially true in the church concerning the modern concept of community. I want to list a few reasons why actual community is still important for our spiritual growth in discipleship.
1. Genuine concern and care requires your presence.
Facebook announced in 2017 that they can fill the void in community that churches and little league teams once filled in years past. I don't know about little league, but concerning the church, there is no substitute.
Yes, there are ways we can utilize modern tools in reaching out to people and showing that we care. There is a lot of good there. Prayer groups, church pages, expressing concern when people post about issues in life. All of these things are good things. However, we need to recognize that your actual presence is a gift to others. It is so much more impactful to pray for someone face to face or when you bring them food while they're grieving. Time and time again, that's what we do in the context of a church community.
Your church community isn't perfect, but the goal of caring for the needs of others is clear in Acts 2, "Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need."
2. Community keeps us accountable
This is something we may not realize that we need, but this is central to our development and growth as Christians. In many ways, there is literally zero accountability that is available through the internet. In fact, it is designed as something that can avoid accountability.
Before the internet, all things were local. In the truest sense, all issues were local issues. This meant in order to find solutions to issues, or to talk about issues, we needed to address them on a local level. This meant we had to talk to people that we came in contact with often. The veil of anonymity the internet provides has done a lot damage to our discourse as humans.
It also keeps us grounded doctrinally. It's one thing to talk about doctrine and theology online, but it is quite another to talk about these issues in the context of a small group of people that you see every week. In an era of celebrity and fame, there is a great need to stay grounded in doctrine. I'm thankful for the apparent conversion of someone like Kanye West. We should rejoice at what the Lord seems to have done in his life. It's also a good reminder that everyone of us need people to help us stay rooted in our spiritual walk. He's a baby Christian. Even Kanye needs a pastor or mentor.
3. Worship happens in community
Christians should be worshiping people. There are multiple verses that substantiate the belief that worship must happen corporately, not just individually. There is nothing in the Bible that justifies living the Christian life alone. Psalm 133:1 says, "How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity." Hebrews 10 says, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
I met someone on a mission trip, and I asked them if they go to church anywhere. She was a believer, but she said that she watches the livestream of a well-known church on Facebook. I encouraged her to get plugged into a local church, and I gave her information about a great church in her community. Personally, I think live-streaming or recording your worship service can be a great tool. It's great if someone is home sick or an older person is in the nursing home. It's even great as an outreach tool for guests or unbelievers.
However, being in person for a worship service can never be replaced.
You need to hear your brothers and sisters in Christ singing with you. You need to be there when someone needs prayer. You need to hear first hand how God is using the church for His glory and the good of others.
We need to seek the Lord, together.