How Technology Has Overwhelmed Our Souls and Hurt the Church

One of our congregation members who is very savvy at social media often posts about how things used to be.  From looking at old ways to do research, to top 40 songs of the past, old TV shows or remembering old customs from a seemingly bygone era...I am being reminded of my childhood and how things are way different now.  Showing my age, I relate way too much to the ways things used to be nostalgically.

One area that has been on my mind lately is the availability of information and the impossible commitment it places on the church, both individually and corporately.  I believe the internet and social media has hurt the church (it has its blessings as well).  I believe that the influx of information that has been thrust into our lives has been too much for us to handle and put into a biblical perspective.

Let me explain by drawing from examples from the past and comparing them to modern day realities.

In Biblical times there were no phones or automobiles.  Traveling great distances to live meant to be cut off from family unless they traveled with you (see Abraham, Gen. 12:1-3).  Hearing news from family a great distance away was rare, sometimes decades apart.  Change to customs was slow.  Abraham could send his servant to his father's people after being gone for 50 years and know that they would still be there (Gen. 24).  Immediate family was extremely important.  Community was important.  Knowing your neighbor and being involved in their lives was a way of life that continued for most of human history.

Fast-forward to my generation who grew up in the 80s.  Computers were just beginning to become available.  The TV was the fastest way to receive information, however, newspapers and magazines were still useful in gathering deeper cuts of that information.  Because of the telephone, we could call and contact relatives...as long as they were home (but there was this new invention called the answering machine that would let them know that they missed our call!).  It was still important to know your immediate neighbors, but the connection to community was beginning to wane because of the technological advances that kept children indoors more (video games).  Because of cars, planes and trains, we could visit relatives and friends with relative ease (provided we had the money).  The increase of technology also provided an increase in opportunity to do things that we never had before.  However, connection with friends usually happened by going over to their house.

Today, things are way different.  The access to the internet makes any information available to us and to our children.  Contact with relatives is only a Skype or Facetime (or Facebook video) away.  Everyone has a phone on them for instant communication.  Local, National and World events are communicated to us the moment after it happens, with 6,000,000 differing viewpoints on what happened during the event.  Video games have been replaced by apps on the phone.  Community has also been replaced by texting and social media, which gives a semblance of community.  Social media has also made it possible for us to keep up with every friend we have ever made and even the most distant of family members (unless they are over 70).  We can now be connected to one another 24/7.  Instant communication is not just a fact of life, but an expectation of it.

It is this instant communication and information that is overwhelming our souls.  It has us assuming the role of God and not even knowing it.  And because we don't know how to place healthy and holy limits in our lives (recognizing our humanity), we are placing unrealistic expectations on our personal lives, our spiritual lives and our social lives that is crushing our relationship with God and with one another.

Have you ever wondered what Abraham did to ensure that his brother was doing well, not being able to contact him for 50 years?  Would his brother ever had felt neglected because Abraham didn't contact him or visit him on a yearly (or even once every 10 years) basis?

In the 80s, my dad called my grandmother every week and had us talk with her.  We would visit her every year (or every other year) though she lived 1000 miles away from us.  When we would go home to visit, the whole family would come by.  It was kind of a community expectation.

Today, there is an expectation even greater than that.  We must know all of our family members and be friends with them on Facebook (some other social media).  We must keep up with all of our friends constantly.  If we don't do it, we aren't doing our Christian duty to family and friends.

Concerning society, we now know about everything that happens in our community, in our country and around the world.  The shooting in Florida is now something we have to deal with, if we are to be a good Christian.  The homeless problem in our city is something we have to deal with, if we are to be a good Christian.  The broken homes and single parent crisis in America is our responsibility, if we want to show that we are good Christians.  Our social media is filled with heartbreaking needs and if we don't do something about it, we aren't being good Christians.  There a bazillion different causes, needs and opportunities placed before that believer...EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  Each one overwhelming us with need that the accuser of our souls screams at us that if we don't meet them, we are not good Christians.

It is from this attitude that the current trend "#thoughtsandprayers" is assailing our brothers and sisters of faith.  Many in society, also overwhelmed by the needs of the world, are attacking people of faith for praying, claiming that what is needed is action, not good feelings.  Many Christ followers are feeling the force of such attacks and agreeing with the current sentiment.

However, prayer is a reminder of our limitations.  We are not God.  The internet and social media is giving just a small glimpse of what being God is like, and reminding us that we are woefully under qualified to be Him.  It should drive us to our knees in prayer for His help amidst our inadequacy.  It should drive us to community for solutions within our community first for the problems that we are facing living in a fallen world.  Our response within our community will be a beacon to the world of the love we have for one another and the difference that Christ makes in our lives...and can in theirs (John 13:34-35).  All of the needs that we are being bombarded with from the headlines of the world around us are found in our communities of faith.  Communities of faith that we are tempted to abandon or treat with disregard because the need outside the church is always greater.

This isn't a call for retreatism into only a body of faith.  Rather it is the trust that our greatest witness of whose we are is shown first in our love for one another.  I cannot be concerned with society's ills of single motherhood, if I am not first helping the single mother who is in our midst calling on the name of Christ as her hope.  I cannot be concerned with the neglect of the elderly or veterans in our society, if I am not first visiting the elderly and helping the veterans in our communities of faith.

It is through the body of Christ that we are reminded and reassured that we are only a part of the body of Christ (see 1 Cor 12, Eph. 4:11-16, Romans 12).  We are humbly reminded that we are not designed to meet all the needs of the church (much less the world), but are equipped by God to meet some of those needs.  Our role is important, but not all consuming.  The needs we are able to meet through Christ in the body are sufficient, not because we can meet all the needs, but we know that God can and He can use us as an instrument of His will to meet some of those needs.

By reminding ourselves of our own limitations, focusing on meeting the needs we can, beginning in the church (and trusting God to take care of the rest), we will be combating the lie of this age that we aren't doing enough, while giving witness to the world of the rest and peace that comes from trusting Christ amidst a world of unending need...a need only Christ can meet.

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