Over the last few months God has helped me begin to understand the important role biblical community plays (or should play) in the Christian life. The more I learn, the more I am encouraged to do two things: pursue community in my own life, and encourage other Christians to do the same. Today I was watching a talk by Albert Mohler on the ‘hypersocialized’ generation (you can watch the video here). Five minutes into his talk I realized a formidable reality in the pursuit of community: it’s easier to mimic community than have community.
The mimicked community I have in mind is the one modern technology offers us. There seems to be an increasing tendency to build our communities through digital interaction–facebook, youtube, texting, etc. It’s amazing how much these means of communication have changed our interactions. Most teens, for example, prefer texting on their phones rather than talking on them (I once had a student whose phone could only send and receive texts, not calls!). It’s not surprising then that one in three teenagers send over 100 text messages a day. But it’s not just teenagers. I’ve been in houses where adults talk to each other and their children through texting while in the same house!
I have long been of the opinion that the upcoming generations reliance on digital communication has robed them of the ability to carry on a face to face conversation. But awkward conversations are the least of my concerns. Here’s my questions. Can relationships that are built largely (or in many cases entirely) through texting and facebooking produce real biblical community? I’m beginning to think that real community has to be built on life interaction, not just quick postings. I believe my thinking is supported by the reality that it’s easier to have a facebook community than a ‘in the flesh’ community. Why? My guess is that digital communities are easier to control. You can cut in or cut out of the community with the press of a button. You can hide fear, joy, anxiety, disapproval–and so much more–since your face isn’t seen and your voice isn’t heard (I’m sorry, but emoticons like 🙂 , 🙁 , and 😉 don’t cut it). In short, it’s easier to mimic a deep rooted community than be a deep rooted community. So where does all this lead me? One simple point, spend time ‘in the flesh’ with people. Make spending time with members of your local church a priority. It will be hard to build community, but the results will be deeper and more spiritually enriching than any alternative.