One of the great challenges of living in our beautiful state is living almost half a continent away from our extended families. Parents, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, and lifelong friends are all an expensive, long plane ride away … and that’s not even taking into account time taken getting through TSA checkpoints.
Thanks to modern technology, however, the distance does not prevent communication. We can pick up the phone at any time and instantly have a conversation with our distant loved ones. It doesn’t even have to stop with a phone conversation. Without even leaving my living room I can share pictures and videos with my loved ones. I can grab my phone and have a face to face conversation, or even take them on a virtual “tour” of our house or the view outside. I can show off my daughter’s art project, or show my friend in California what it looks like when a moose chills out in your front lawn.
In spite of all of this, however, we still leap at any opportunity to visit our families in person, in spite of the tremendous investment of time and money it takes to do so. There is something significant about being in the actual presence of one another that can’t be replicated.
Now certainly there are advantages of a facetime conversation as opposed to actual “face time.” It’s convenient. You get to get in and out of a conversation as quickly as you want. You don’t even really have to prepare. Just find the one clean spot of the house to use as a backdrop, and there are no worries if the rest of the house is a disaster zone. You can just keep your pajama bottoms on, and they will never know.
Real interaction, on the other hand, often takes time, work, inconvenience, and even money once the airlines get involved. Yet we do it, because we know it’s always worth it.
Getting involved in your local church can also be difficult for the same reasons. As challenging as can be to corral all of the kids together week after week to get to church, the option to just open an internet browser and lurk virtually in a church can be pretty appealing. After all, we are a click away from some of the most dynamic preaching and worship teams in the world. Any given week I can sit and watch the stream from almost any church I can think of.
As we know that virtual visits with our family pale in comparison to the real thing, however, virtual visits to church are unsuitable substitutes, as well. After all, church involvement isn’t just about consuming an inspiration sermon or music. It’s a gathering centered in relationship. It’s getting to know people and be known. It’s participation with family, warts and all. That is why Paul encouraged us to “… not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25-NLT).
So, absolutely take advantage of the many great churches that are making their material available around the world. Be encouraged and challenged by the wealth of information, lessons, messages, and worship music you have available to you at a moment’s notice.
None of those things, however, can replace being actually connected and involved with a local group of believers on a regular basis. We all need real relationship and accountability together in God’s kingdom, and that won’t even use up any of our internet data plan.
Pastor Grant Parkki is the Christian Education Associate Pastor at Kenai New Life. You can find out more about the church and its ministries at kenainewlife.org.