9.23.2006

Church as We Know It

I've written often in this space about how, even in an age when you
can do everything virtually, the face-to-face still matters in
business. We can send files electronically, do online research, even
videoconference with remarkable clarity . . . but still there's
something to be said about being near and with other like-minded
individuals.

This is no less true for the church. I appreciate the sentiment of
George Barna in his recent book, "Revolution," in that the church,
especially in America, needs to be re-envisioned and refreshed, for
the purposes of its purposes. But I disagree that it needs to be
totally blown up, replaced by home-based cell groups and anything else
that would avoid church as we know it in its parochial and
sanctuary-based sense.

After all, just like you can conduct all manner of business virtually,
so you might think you could do the same spiritually. There are an
extraordinary number of sermon texts and mp3's available online. You
can share your griefs and confess your sins in online chat rooms and
groups. And of course, you can worship God anywhere you like, from
your closet to up on a mountaintop to the bottom of the sea.

But there's no substitute for the physical touch, the feeling of
community from a congregation being together in worship and prayer,
the sense of intimacy you get in a small group. Church, clunky and
old-fashioned as it is in its traditional sense, is still a scratch
for something deep inside us that itches.

So we're lucky we can access so much information and reach so many
people and do so many things right in front of our computer screens.
But church as we know it, while it might need a make-over, is still
something essential in the life of an active Christian.

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