As I stood in line at the bank the other day, anachronistically waiting for a genuine human being to process my deposit, I longed for simpler times. I long for the days when there were more than one teller and a bowl of lollipops in the bank lobby instead of a customer service representative encouraging the use of the ATM. I long for the days when the supermarket had a full bank of staffed registers instead of one live cashier-bagger and six self-service aisles. I long for the days of phone calls with actual people on the other line instead of a stream of texts and snap-chats. As technology advances, it seems that social interaction recedes.
Thankfully, there are a number of places where personal relationships are accentuated and face-to-face conversations are encouraged. Primary among those places, in my opinion, is the local church. While many of the functions of the church can be accomplished without human interaction – web-based Bible studies, live-streaming worship services and christianmingle.com – the greatest benefits of the church occur when we gather together. The Bible is full of activities that we can do together: greet one another, instruct one another, serve one another, encourage one another and love one another. We do these things – and more – through spending time in the presence of one another.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
The blessing of meeting together, in prayer and in praise and in proclamation, is multi-faceted. There is the blessing of diverse interactions: few places outside of local houses of worship have such a variety of people with differing ages, experiences, educations, relationships and resources. There is the blessing of nuance: we have yet to be able to capture sarcasm, subtlety or body language through electronic media and we know that communication involves more than words. There is the blessing of presence; one of the initial comments of God was the fact that it is not good for humans to be alone, and yet we are fast becoming a society where we need no longer interact with others to exist.
God is relational – He is, by nature, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and He created us in His image (i.e. relational). As we bravely advance in this world of kiosks and tablets, we must challenge the societal momentum toward an impersonal existence. We must interact with our words as well as our pixels, with our presence as well as our avatars and with a handshake or hug as well as a hashtag. Some of us need to push back against the tide of isolation and take the time to have a conversation with a few other fascinating human beings.
A good first step is to enter a local service of worship this weekend, sing shoulder-to-shoulder with a stranger and surround all your senses with the Savior of your soul. Perhaps it will give you something to think about while waiting in line at the bank.