I have stopped going to church. I have a reason- Christ went digital.
I kinda feel an itchy guilt about it, but it is just a lot easier to get sermons and bible studies online. I listen to great stuff about faith and the Bible through my earbuds. Straight from the phone I get books on tape and podcasts. I am, (I know this is bragging and that’s bad, but I want to be authentic), more faith-studied than ever before. I read on my phone over the course of a week a book about prayers. Now I’m getting that right. My twin brother died this year, so I listened to a podcast on grief from a Christian perspective. I still feel emotionally gutted, but at least I know why. The podcast covered that, and while not helpful to me at all, I will now know what I should say to other Christians when they are grieving. I have watched seven sermons on the Holy Spirit. I’ve even tweeted out the links to a couple of them so other people can watch them, #iamjusttryingtobefunnyidonottweet.
When I was growing up, we went to a church that had only one entrance/exit to the parking lot. This was back when there were not any off-duty police in safety vests to direct traffic. This is why at the end of services people ranto their cars. They looked like the terrified people fleeing the city in a Godzilla movie. Every Sunday when we got in the car to leave, joining the inching conga line out to the street, my dad would sing in a cynical voice, “You will know they are Christians, watch them drive, watch them drive.” That is not for me. We do jammy-church. Still in our pajamas, we watch services online from our computer transmitted to the big screen.
I like drive-thru food, booking movie tickets online and I like my faith at my fingertips and on my schedule.
In the last few months, however, this digital strategy has shown some holes. It started with my church’s “Twenty-one Days of Prayer.” Our church takes a period of twenty-one days, twice per year, and has an hour of prayer together from 6am -7am. I went as many times as I could this year. The morning of prayer opens with a few thoughts from our pastor or other invited speakers to bring focus to those who are attending as they begin the time of prayer. That lasts about 10 minutes. After that, the rest of the time is spent in quiet prayer. The walls are covered with sticky notes of prayer requests. As people sit down and pray for their own concerns, others walk to read prayer requests and prayer for the people who have posted them. The attendees finish with group prayer and blessing, joining each other at the front of the auditorium. The people gather together closely, hands on shoulders, heads bowed. It truly is an unbelievable time of connection. My heart and soul are filled from each of those days of prayer. I have to admit to myself that I cannot accomplish this part of faith alone, just reading scripture on my phone.
My daughter has been in a Christian school all of her educational life. She brings her questions about faith to her mom and me as she has them. The real discussions, however, are held in a small group of Christian friends. They debate, converse and challenge each other about scripture, true beliefs and fears. There is not a formal structure or agenda to these “meetings.” They are people doing life together, face-to-face, not digitally.
My wife is in several small group bible studies. I’m in a men’s group who discusses life and faith. It’s becoming more apparent to me that digital only is not going to work. In fact, it really never fully worked for me. I’ve been doing faith with people, as has my family, constantly for the past few years. The “Twenty-one Days of Prayer” just re-confirmed that being in community is actually a part of faith. I am going back to church, <sigh>. I look at it his way, there is a Starbucks on the way and I do not have to give up my digital bible studies, recorded sermons and podcasts. I keep those things digital and I go back to the Christ-community. Faith is a full meal, not just what you can order at the drive-thru.