Zoom and other web technologies have helped us all through the pandemic. Churches were applauded for their adaptability and creativity in 'going online' at very short notice last year. Who knew the church could react and change so quickly!
But now conversations between church leaders run along these lines: do we want to keep streaming? The additional people engaging (connecting / viewing) with our services is encouraging ... but are we just putting out a kind of Christian entertainment? Are we forming real community? And what about real discipleship?
We know the term 'Rice Christians' - a negative term used to describe the (bad) scenarios where people seem to show allegiance to the Christian faith in order to receive aid (e.g. rice) in some far off land where access to food is an issue. Yet now, especially in the West, we are in danger of producing 'Pyjama Christians'! Of course it is easier to just click 'View' on the cusp of the meeting start time (or any time thereafter). Yes you can engage from the comfort of your own home, cup of coffee in hand ... take a break whenever you need or want.
All these increase the 'accessibility' of our church gatherings - which is sort of a good thing ...
But Jesus commissioned us to make disciples (Matthew 28). That means challenge, hard decisions, and life-on-life learning together in the Spirit. It suggests changing out of your pyjamas and dressing ready for some hard graft.
The teachings of Jesus (which we are commissioned to teach people to obey) are in many ways wonderfully simple ... and yet hard to live out. On the contrary our plethora of online content risks being sophisticated & complicated ... yet easy to consume.
Maybe simply looking to Jesus gives us a clue on this topic. For Jesus is God come to earth, born as human, living flesh and blood (aka incarnation). In Jesus we see that God is not remote or virtual! Of course the Spirit can work through our remote technologies ... just as the Spirit has worked through pen-friend campaigns and long distance short wave radio ministries in the past. Yet there is something about the together: real and physical that Jesus has already modelled for us. Maybe we were given physical bodies for a reason.