I simply cannot tell you how much I'm enjoying this book by Chuck Swindoll.
I ran across this quote today:
Any education is most effective when the teachers are more than mere dispensers of information. Students need a school where the professors care about the lives of their students, where a student is not just number 314 in the class.
Then he adds this shocker:
That's why I don't believe a theological education can take place online.
Read that sentence again ... and again until it sinks in. Chuck then says:
Information can go on the Web, but an education requires more than data. It involves the touch of a mentor -- one seasoned in life poured into another inexperienced life.
Remember, Chuck is not anti-education. He served as the president of Dallas Theological Seminary for crying out loud. But he verbalizes what many of us are thinking today but are perhaps reluctant to say out loud. Personally, moving forward I have asked to teach only in-person classes. No, I am not against online or virtual instruction. When it's necessary, I do it. Last semester, in addition to my 6 in-person classes, I taught a Greek class in Israel via Zoom. Was it ideal? Hardly. Did it get the job done? Yes, but only to a degree. Disseminating information is one thing. But education is so much more than knowledge. In a true learning environment., one person's life touches the life of another.
In his excellent book Analog Church, Jay Kim writes:
The church is designed to do and to be something Facebook, or any other social media or online platform, could never be -- a real gathering of real people, as unlikely and different as they are.
At their worst, social media and digital spaces create a false sense of connection and a facade of community. And they are very skilled at their ruse.
That's quite a statement when you realize that Kim was pastoring a megachurch with satellite campuses when, contrary to his inclinations, he was firmly reminded he needed to look into the camera while speaking rather than at the congregation. One day he had a wake-up call and asked himself, "What's that all about?"
Here's a picture I took last weekend in Dallas while driving to dad's funeral.
See the word "community"? That is so much better than "church," don't you think? The Greek word for church never refers to a building. It describes a community of believers where people share things in common and are involved in each other's lives, a place where the word of God is not only "learned through teaching but lived through fellowship" (Swindoll).
In light of this, here are a few questions to ponder:
- In what ways is your church a reflection of the culture rather than a disruption of it?
- Does your church focus more on being digitally savvy or on being a gathering where real people share real community?
- Does your pastor's teaching into a camera build a sense of rapport and trust with those in attendance Sunday and after Sunday?
- What can your church do to cultivate real-life transformative community among believers?
- Are there any ways your church has been caught up in the digital age's preference for efficiency and consumerism over relationships and genuine body life?