I am a Facebook nerd, there is no doubt. I have the Facebook app on my BlackBerry and communicate through Facebook a lot. It makes sure I remember birthdays and lets me know what happens in people’s lives. Believe it or not Facebook has even helped me in an emergency, as I used my BlackBerry app to find the phone number of someone who was able to get a student to the emergency room who was very sick. It has allowed me to contact old friends from the Navy, from school, and from our church families in Oregon and California.
As much as I love having this sizeable virtual community, though, it can’t possibly replace real, face-to-face relationships in my life. It’s great to write on people’s wall, to see what is going on in their family and interact with them. It’s really helpful to keep in touch with people who are having a hard time or are celebrating significant milestones.
There are just some things that require face to face contact; even the wonder of the intertubes has limits! This Sunday we had a man come forward to be baptized. This is a beginning but important step of obedience in the Christian life, and one that is more than a little difficult to do in a virtual community. Our whole church celebrated this man’s obedience together during our morning worship services. It always amazes me when someone who grew up outside of the faith considers Christ and He calls them to Himself; it reminds the whole church that God is at work in our world and in our midst if we have eyes to see Him.
During our worship service we also had a time of sharing the reasons we were thankful this year, and praying over them. I was absolutely blown away by the many different reasons people had to be thankful, not the least of which was the nine-year-old boy whose thanks was because Jesus died for our sins and rose again. (he is the son of one of my very best friends who is committed to raising his kids to know Christ and serve Him) I was moved to tears by some of the thanksgiving. Several people mentioned how grateful they were for their church family, a thanks I echoed wholeheartedly.
We weren’t done there! Right after church we rearranged the worship hall and had our annual thanksgiving dinner. We had probably 180 people come to celebrate what God has done in our midst in the previous year. I floated through the room and enjoyed the many wonderful ways that God has been at work in our midst! It was potluck (we’re Baptist after all!) and I enjoyed an amazing turkey dinner. We also auctioned off over a dozen quilts that our Comforters ministry quilted to raise money which would be used to make more quilts. We give the quilts they make throughout the year to people in the hospital and to families who have babies. It was a fun way as a church to provide for the needs of those who are sick, hurting, or rejoicing.
I totally got to experience the heart of the command that the author of Hebrews gives us in Hebrews 10:23-25 today:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
In being part of a baptism this morning I remembered that day in my own life and was reminded to consider again those areas of life that I need to become obedient to Christ in. I was challenged to “hold fast the confession of [my] hope without wavering.” Because I had a “real” (as opposed to virtual) church family, and because I was there today, I am so encouraged tonight to follow Christ and serve Him.
As hard as I try to follow an exhortation from the Sunday morning Bible study leader to use my Facebook to encourage others, there is no way that can compare with the day I had at church today. Even though I only “friend” those who I am friends with in real life (IRL in web nerd lingo), there is a big difference between contact through the internet and community in real life. In my opinion, there is no way that virtual networks can compete with honest-to-God family and friends.
That is why, more than anything else, I value my church family. They are the “spur” that the Lord uses to help me hold onto the confession of my hope, and they push me to love others and serve God.
That is the heart of biblical community and a real blessing in my life. If you have that community in your life, make sure to thank God for it and thank them too! If you don’t have that blessing currently, then make today the day that you start looking for that community. If you’re a member of a solid, Bible-believing church I would be willing to bet that it can be that community for you if you’ll commit to it. If not, make finding that kind of community high on your priority list and don’t rest until you’ve found it.