As a kid, I was addicted to cartoons. I was the child who got up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to watch cartoons before football games or church. I loved Bull Winkle and the Looney Tunes gang above all else. The classic Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote competitions kept me entertained for hours. Multiple times in each episode, the coyote would fall off a cliff, be blown to smithereens by dynamite, or crushed by a rock from one of his own contraptions. But here's what I knew: The coyote on my TV was a cartoon character. He wasn't and isn't real. Quite a bit has been written these days about violence of those early cartoons, but as a child it was merely nothing but humor and no worries for us because when the next episode began, there was the coyote again, trying desperately once more to catch the roadrunner. Beep, beep! I didn't panic or cry when the roadrunner missed the trap and the coyote fell into his own trap because I knew it was not real or live.
I'm writing this blog today to help some of you come to a better understanding and a sense of clarity about virtual reality and videos.
Truth #1: It's Not The Same Thing As Being There!
Watching church or biblical teaching videos online is not the same thing as attending church. The small church that I pastor was able to acquire a subscription to "Right Now Media" a few years ago. I have access to thousands of video teaching series. I can watch Matt Chandler, Francis Chan, Louie Giglio, Tony Evans, Chip Ingram, Tim Tebow, Max Lucado, Henry Cloud, Ann VosKamp, Pete Brisco, and the like. You can sit through a conference with Tony Evans teaching a room full of pastors and lay leaders about leadership principles. Whenever I watch these videos, I always take extensive notes and remain engaged throughout the lessons. I laugh at the jokes, tear up at the heartwarming stories, and receive spiritual encouragement from my brothers in the ministry. But it's NOT the same as being there. I do not have the experience of sharing the real moment with a good friend, my spouse, or a fellow staff member. I do not have the experience of meeting new ministers and sharing a joke or heartwarming story with them. Watching it just isn't the same as actually being there.
Truth #2: God Means For You To Be There In Person — For Real, Flaws And All!
So, please, if you're a spiritual video-watching junkie or binger, get involved in a healthy local church and stimulate them to love and good deeds. Get to doing some of the good deeds yourself. Bring a group to your home and watch a good video you like together and then figure out how to live out the truths that you've learned.
There are lots of good things that we've improved through technology. I'm all for technology. I've finally learned to teach mostly from my tablet rather than from my handwritten or printed notes. I use Google all the time. But, this I am 100 percent sure about: Church is meant to be an assembling of real people with real problems and real faith, inspiring, encouraging, motivating, and training each other up. The word "church" in the New Testament means "assembly." It doesn't mean "virtual assembly." It is specifically referring to a gathering of real people in the same room who are there for spiritual growth and spiritual stimulation.