Sunday, November 01, 2009

Must Christian Fellowship be Face-to-Face?

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by Laura Springer, M.Div., Th.M.

These gatherings are important, but insufficient. The relative infrequency allows for too much life apart. Our conversations, though they are many, are insufficient to carry our stories. Time and geography hinder more frequent gatherings.

What should we do?

Connecting in the New Testament

The New Testament (NT) describes many ways of connecting with other believers. Believers gathered face-to-face (Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15) and connected through letters (2 Cor 13:10; Phil 3:1; Col 4:18) and intercessory prayer (Rom 1:8-15; Phil 1:3-11). Whether in the same house church or across the Mediterranean Sea, the soul-to-soul connections were very real.

Soul-to-soul connections are important, but because we have bodies, face-to-face connections are primary. Just as NT Christians gathered in homes (Rom 16:5) and temple porches (Acts 2:46), so Christians today gather in worship centers, Sunday school rooms, and living rooms. Such face-to-face participation is necessary for the spiritual growth of the community (Eph 4:15-16).

But what about connections that are not face-to-face? Are texting, email, Facebook, and Twitter valid ways to connect with fellow believers?

Connecting Soul-to-Soul

We are physical, but we are also spiritual. We see glimmers of this when we sit in a crowded room of strangers, talking with a friend on the phone: the connection with the strangers is likely minimal, while the connection with the friend is stronger. Another hint is seen in the story of Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt 17): somehow, the three disciples knew Moses and Elijah, presumably without ever having seen them before: they knew their souls. Soul-to-soul connections are real and valuable.

So, we are left with a question: What should non face-to-face connection look like?