I have this love-hate relationship with technology. I love that in some ways it has made the Gospel and Hope Chapel more accessible to people…and people always matter! Hundreds of people listen to our on-line podcasts each week. Face Book Live has made it possible for those who can’t get to church to “participate”. More and more people are checking us out on-line and then walking through Hope’s doors. This effect I love.
But then there is the other side of the coin…the part I hate. More and more people are letting the technological options be a substitute for being physically present in the worship experience. And that is a killer. I mean a real killer. Let me provide a simple picture of how that works.
It is Sunday morning. It is 10:29 AM, one minute before the second service starts. A visitor walks in, taking a big step in their journey to see what Jesus is all about. They step into the worship center… and it’s 3/4 empty. One bunch of people are still chatting in the lobby ignoring the flashed lights, figuring that missing the music doesn’t matter much. Another sizable group has their latest technological device scheduled to download the message that afternoon and aren’t there at all…better things to do, so I’ll get it later. A third group doesn’t want to “blow” half of a beautiful day at church when they could get a ton of yard work done or indulge their favorite hobby or catch up on the work they didn’t get done during the week. The result… in a worship center designed to seat 300 and in a church that can muster 900 on an Easter Sunday, there are 50 people or less ready for worship at 10:29. The visitor, having taken the big step to actually show up, looks around in those determinative and crucial first 5 minutes, notes all the empty seats and concludes that folks don’t find this church meaningful, that it’s sense of lifelessness indicates there really isn’t life in Jesus, and that this is their first and last visit. Topping it off, the general rule is that first impressions are lasting, and in this case maybe for eternity.
Contrast that with a Sunday when the place is full, say like Easter, when even those who have written off church feel an undeniable sense of life and encouragement. They comment as they depart…”I don’t usually go to church, but this was great.” Why do they feel that way? Because the sheer volume of “people presence” adds life to the service. This shows that one of the most powerful ministries in the Kingdom is simply the ministry of being present. That is why Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to be slackers in meeting together, but to encourage each other by actually being present.
Now I know that the warm weather is upon us. Summer is right around the corner. I am not trying to make you feel guilty about going on vacation. Go. Enjoy. You deserve it. But I am challenging you not to neglect the ministry of presence this Summer or any other season. Protect your Sunday mornings. The one thing technology can never replace is you, and the powerful gift of encouragement your ministry of presence offers. You matter. You always will.