By: Gary L. Hutchens
The face of our culture is changing before our eyes. The evidence of this fact can be observed by looking in a number of different directions. Computerized technology and the internet may be the biggest influences affecting and shaping much of the change. It seems that only our imaginations limit us as to what continued changes lay ahead.
A major change has been a shift from manufacturing to information as perhaps the most basic focus of our economy. Information is power! Not long ago people got their news by reading the daily newspaper. Major cities commonly offered several daily newspapers from which to choose. Only three major television networks existed, and their national news broadcasts lasted only fifteen to thirty minutes each evening. There was no such thing as cable television, talk radio, personal computers (or much of any other kind of computer) or the internet with all of its social media.
Ever advancing technology has brought increased emphasis on convenience and speed. We want most everything to be easy and fast. We don’t want to have to spend much time or expend much effort get what we want. Instant gratification is our goal.
It should not be surprising that this mind-set has made an impact on many people’s Christianity. According to a fairly recent Barna study (Barna tracks religious trends similar to what Gallup does in tracking political and social trends), an increasing number of people are turning to alternatives to being involved with a traditional church setting. The study found that 89% of adults believe engaging in faith activities at home with family is an acceptable alternative to participating in the conventional services and activities of a church. Being active in a house church was acceptable to 75%, watching a religious television program to 69% and listening to a religious radio program to 68%.
Scoring lower but still significantly high, were interacting with a faith-oriented website (45%) and participating in live events over the internet (42%). All of these alternatives are viewed by those indicated in the percentages listed as being “a complete and biblically valid way for someone who does not participate in the services or activities of a conventional church to experience and express their faith in God.”
Those percentages represent people who see these various activities as taking the place of the church in their lives! If structured properly these activities can be good works. But they cannot scripturally take the place of the church, the possible exception being a house church, but only if it fulfills the scriptural model of what the church should be.
Now, add to the mix the restrictions against gatherings imposed during the COVID pandemic. Congregations rose to the challenge in an amazing way, utilizing computer and internet technology to allow members the ability to worship together virtually.
But we must not be lulled into spiritual laziness, thinking God will be pleased with us indefinitely laying on the couch in our pajamas, watching worship over the internet, and think we’re still being the church. The church is pivotal in God’s plan for man’s eternal salvation (Eph. 3:8-11; Acts 2:47). Vital to the church’s strength and effectiveness is its family-hood, fellowship together (Heb. 10:23-25). The idea that there can be an alternative to God’s design for the church is unscriptural and therefore ungodly. We must eventually make the commitment to come back and take our active place in God’s church.
Gary L. Hutchens