In Reboot: Refreshing Your Faith in a High-Tech World, author Peggy Kendall addresses the challenge of community in the 21st century, both on online and in the church. Online technology provides us with instant connection with friends around the world but that connection is not complete. It is mediated through technology and allows us to control exactly what we share about ourselves and also the opportunity to be selective in our response to friends.
This can be true in the church as well. Kendall is honest about her family’s preference for a megachurch that provides worship experiences that (partially through technology) leaves them personally refreshed and rejuvenated. At the same time, she realizes that this approach also leaves them less involved. As she writes, “I feel less restricted but less anchored, less encumbered but less connected, more personally moved but less engaged in the meaningful work of the community.”
The corrective they have adopted is to become involved in a small group sponsored by the church and some of the church’s ministries. She understands that “Big and high-tech church experiences can move us and speak to the hearts of lots of people, but it’s the small communities that remind us of the calling and commitment that are central to the Christian faith.”
Even in moderate size churches, the worship experience may draw people in, but the small group experience of a Sunday school class or Bible study group keeps them engaged. Where once Sunday school was considered the outreach arm of the church, it has now become the engagement (or, if you prefer, “assimilation”) arm of the church.
Why is this true? Because as much as we want to be involved in contemplation and worship of the Holy, we ultimately must come to see the face of God in our peers. God has created us for community—both with God and humankind. If either is lacking, we will not grow as believers.
Technology can be used to facilitate community, but it cannot meet all of our needs for true Christian community.