Zoom or Gather? That is the Question

By Larry Platner

Finally I can sit down in a café with a friend, invite family members and friends for dinner, play football with friends, have a picnic with others in the local park and more. Oh yes, 3-D contact, how I’ve missed it.

Connecting with others from the comfort of home over the internet is quite attractive. Indeed I am thankful for Zoom and social media enabling me to stay in contact with loved ones, friends and our Christian community. But now that the Covid-19 restrictions are lifting what place does it have in my life?

How are you feeling about leaving the Zoom world and physically gathering with your Christian community? Are you looking forward to your Sunday gathering and your small group or thinking you actually prefer continuing with your gatherings from the comfort of home via the internet?

To love well, one must know well

There are benefits to social and video media but consider this:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 10:34-35

Our love for one another is what marks us out as disciples of Jesus. Does social and video media enable us to grow and express our love for one another to such an extent that it grabs the attention of others?

For Jesus, in-person presence was essential to loving others.  He chose the twelve to “be with him”, (Mark 3:14). Why didn’t He just take up residence in a town like other rabbis and arrange for His disciples to come around at specific times for some teaching and/or write letters? Why would He want people with Him 24/7? What about His privacy and getting away from it all?

Quality of conversations

Perhaps a thirteen year old when asked about social media provides the answer:

Since the inception of social networking, the quality of conversations has dropped. I believe that people are spending so much time online that they dont always understand the feeling, emotion and/or character of the person they are talking to. When you talk to someone through a message or even a voice, you cant always fully understand them.”

Jesus knew His disciples intimately and they Him because He spent time with them. This enabled Jesus to love each person in the way they needed. Imagine if Jesus only interacted with His disciples when He was teaching them. Would Jesus have rebuked Peter for saying He must never die? Would Jesus have known Peter well enough to know how to best respond? How would Peter have responded if he hadn’t known Jesus as he did by being with Him?

Change of heart

This past Sunday my wife was asked by our church to deliver a food package to someone in our community. She asked me to accompany her and I reluctantly agreed. When we delivered the food we ended up talking to the man for some time. 

Prior to our visit I felt no compassion for the man but as we left I felt burdened for him and the need to visit him regularly. Making the effort to physically go to his home and conversing with him face to face made a change in my heart that I don’t think an online conversation would have done.

The early church took being in bodily presence with each other to heart; eating, fellowshipping and learning together. As a result they knew first hand the needs of each other and I believe this made them more willing to sacrifice their own resources to meet those needs. As a result they flourished and being known for their love found favour with others, (Acts 2:42-47).

Loving and knowing one takes many

Through his metaphor of the parts of the body, the apostle Paul emphasises our uniqueness and therefore, our need for one another. Each of us has something unique to offer, a way of loving, that grows the overall love for and completeness of each member in a community of believers.

C. S. Lewis notes another important contribution of our uniqueness. He wrote that: “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” 

Lewis understood that his personality brought out certain characteristics of his friend but a third friend with his unique personality would bring out other characteristics that he himself would never had seen on his own. His point is: to know a person well you need others to make them known. You will be more known within a community.

Yes, social and video media has its benefits but it can never replace the dynamics, stimulation, joy and wonder of being in bodily presence with others. There is something about it that enables us to know another more deeply and animates our love for them.

Our greatest gift to others

The greatest gift we can give to others is our presence; expressing through our unique gifting, personality and talent our love for them in a way that dove tails with where they are in life. Such love will grow their and our love for Jesus, make us more complete, joyful and loving of others. 

Such a community of love as this will grab the attention of those who don’t yet follow Jesus. Such love though can only be fully expressed when bodily present with one another. By all means use social media and videoing when appropriate but keep in mind what the writer of Hebrews 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 we see the day drawing near.“  

Hebrews 10:24-25