This week’s writing might sound a bit odd coming from me. After all, my ministry uses the internet as its primary means of communication. Bear with me. I haven’t become a Social Media hater. It boggles my mind and humbles my heart when I realise God uses my ministry to bring encouragement, healing and hope to thousands. These are thousands of lives that I would not have touched if not for the Internet. For the disabled, chronically ill, homebound, and caregivers, the Internet is a lifeline!
I appreciate Internet friendships, podcasts, and live streaming church services, but in the long run, they can’t take the place of face-to-face fellowship. My many years on the internet have served to deepen my firm belief. Being rooted in an active fellowship of local believers is vital for every Christian’s spiritual and emotional growth. We need real life people to bump against. We need people who will knock the rough edges off us, so we fit well, stone by stone, into the mosaic that Christ is building, His church. While there may be seasons and circumstances where we genuinely have no other options for fellowship outside of the Internet, many have allowed those seasons to morph into years.
The internet gives us the luxury of presenting only one side of our story. We can paint our spouse, children, boss, or neighbour with a broad stroke of judgment while presenting ourselves as the model of patience, tolerance, and unconditional love. When a fellow viewer rubs us the wrong way during a live streaming event, we can hit the block or ignore button. When someone in an online group challenges our online behaviour, we delete the bookmark to that site and never return.
We cover up passive aggressive behaviour by removing our less-than-loving responses to posts or blogs, thus eliminating the need to ask for forgiveness. We can shut our eyes to the needs of others by ignoring private messages, emails, and texts. Before you protest, I am not saying loving boundaries are unnecessary, and I am not saying rest is not an option. I presume my regular followers know that I am not promoting unhealthy co-dependency.
To some, the Internet has become the perfect place to hide. Yes, I am calling out my fellow introverts. We need face-to-face interaction with the body of Christ just as much as extroverts do. It is all too easy for us to cocoon ourselves with Netflix, Kindle, and podcasts. It breaks my heart to see many of my fellow introverts openly disdain gathering with local believers. Through inference, their imperfect brothers and sisters in Christ are to be merely tolerated.
It’s way too easy to mask our pain-filled hearts behind graphics of happy kitties praising Jesus, random goofy memes. and generic inspirational quotes. Depression creeps in, lethargy increases, and motivation decreases the more we isolate ourselves from face-to-face interaction. Two weeks away from church leads to three, three weeks leads to two months. Sunday mornings are just another day of the week.
Unfortunately, healing cannot take place in isolation. Wounded hearts fester in darkness, and opportunistic infections of bitterness, resentment, and hopelessness take over. If you are hurting, I urge you to pick up the phone and call a friend. Make a date to meet for coffee. Take that first brave step out of isolation; you might be surprised to hear that your friend had been waiting for your call.
As you venture out into the world of face-to-face fellowship, it might be jarring at first. You won’t be able to ignore the cracks and flaws in your brothers and sisters in Christ, and try as you might you won’t be able to hide your shortcomings. That is both the glorious and frightening truth. We can be loved for our authentic selves only if we choose to live our lives authentically!
For further study, I recommend you spend some time in Ephesians 4:10-16
All Bible verses, unless otherwise attributed, are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Until Next Week
©2017 Katherine Walden
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