Dying of Thirst in the New Social Desert


My neighbor told me a few weeks ago that he bought his fifth-grade son a cell phone. As my neighbor is a bit of a Luddite and has resisted such things in the past, I was surprised. What surprised me more was his reasoning, which was nowhere on my radar screen.

Seems he bought the phone because his popular son had seen that popularity dwindle to zero.  And that sudden dive was strictly because the son was out of the texting loop. No cell phone meant no connection to the social structure of today’s tweens and teens. In reality, the boy had ceased to exist.

This last year has seen a sea change in social connection here at the Edelen household:

1. A Christian small group we were a part of for eight years ceased to exist. One by one, families dropped out until there were just two, each unsure what to do going forward. That group now no longer meets.

2. Another Christian small group we are a part of has now decided not to meet during the summer. That it also seems not to meet during the winter holidays means it’s  meeting only half the year now. Given that scheduled meetings are only twice a month anyway, that translates into about a dozen meetings a year total.

3. The writers group I am a part of has had its meeting schedule disrupted from the last Monday of each month to whenever we have enough submission work to warrant a meeting. The meetings have grown more and more sporadic as a result.

4. The worship team at my church attempted a regular practice schedule, but work responsibilities, involvement in outside sporting events for children, and on and on have translated into two practices in the last six months.

5. The Audubon group I’m a part of (as treasurer) had no scheduled events for spring and nothing scheduled so far for summer, the first time that has happened that I can recall.

The irony of all this is that many of the people in the groups mentioned above have joined Facebook in the last six months. We seem to have no trouble meeting in cyberspace.

I know that I’m kind of a crank on this subject, but do a handful of less than a hundred word comments on Facebook constitute social connection?

We all know this passage:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
—Hebrews 10:24-25

I can’t read that passage and not shake my head. We seem to be becoming the some mentioned, the ones we are cautioned against.

When an 11-year-old boy vanishes from the social network of an elementary school for no other reason than his lack of a cell phone, something is horribly wrong. A dry, weary place without waterWhen we begin  to retreat into electronic worlds, abandoning the real one, we have, perhaps, reached that point of no return.

A child who merely wishes to put together a game of Kick the Can finds no playmates in the real world. Either the play is regimented according to schedule (organized kids sports) or relegated to an online world (Neopets, Webkins, et al.). Without a cell phone, even a child becomes a non-entity.

In recent days, I have considered seriously whether to begin extricating myself from the online system. While that will effectively make me invisible in today’s world, I wonder how much more of this we can take before we are no longer a society. If most communities go from face to face to virtual, I believe we will lose the very cues by which we understand each other.

Yet some are preferring this distant means of interacting. Tweet me, baby.

I don’t believe the new thing is better. While it may serve some basic purpose in communicating brief bursts of info, those brief bursts are increasingly ousting the longer forms of communication that define us as human beings. We are preferring them to meeting together face to face. We no longer assemble.

Our faith in rapid bits of impersonal communication may very well be creating a new social desert. Twitter’s 140 characters  cannot replace genuine interaction, though, despite how much some laud it.

I don’t have an answer for this. My thoughts on the subject swim against an increasingly powerful stream that is sucking everyone in. Going against the flow means becoming even less “connected,” even if that connection is all smoke and mirrors anyway. At least a mirror reflects something, even if it’s just an illusion.

You’d think the Church in America would have something to say about this. It has: satellite churches that beam the televised service to different substation halls. And people are eating that up. Rather than getting together during the week, some Christians prefer to connect online. So much for the real definition behind assembling.

Our society is already at that “every man for himself” stage. If we lose what little genuine community we still have, I don’t see how that will ever turn around.

40 thoughts on “Dying of Thirst in the New Social Desert

  1. David

    From a song by Kathy Mattea:

    The sidewalk is crowded
    The city rolls by
    As I rush through another day
    A world full of strangers
    Turn their eyes to me
    But I just look the other way

    They go by just like water
    And I guess we never learn;
    We spend out lives parched and empty
    Standing knee deep in a river,
    And dying of thirst.

    So are Christians ready to be counter-culture? Are we ready to strive against how the world relates? Or are we just giving in?

  2. David,

    I think it’s just giving in. It just kills me that commitment to social gatherings has become so superfluous. But with everyone going that way, how does one avoid it? If everyone communicates through Facebook, how do one stay away from Facebook and still have any sense of connectedness, even if that connectedness is tenuous?

    The old song by The Who, “Substitute,” comes to mind. Instead of using Facebook to supplement communication face to face, we instead use it to supplant that vital personal connection. In that, we fail to understand that our substitution marginalizes everything.

    And yet, like Pandora’s box, going back to what we had takes guts. You risk being forgotten, especially if no one else follows you.

  3. casey

    I’m not sure I can relate to your post, Dan. I often feel like I’m drowning in a sea of social connectedness. There’s the extended family get togethers, old friends you’re trying to keep in touch with, new friends that you’re trying to witness to or get to know better, the kids friends parents you need to get to know so you know whether or not to let your kid go there to play and then on top of that there’s the kids sports practice, game, 4H, music lesson (fill in the blank). I’m constantly talking to people sometimes laughing and goofing off, sometimes listening to their problems, offering counsel if I have any. It could be the difference in the type of work that we do, I know you work from home and I’m usually out and about in the community, but sometimes when small group comes around I just can’t face the prospect of socializing with anyone else. I am so thankful for facebook and texting because with those things I don’t have to actually speak to stay in touch. Maybe I’m just a total introvert and I’m just now realizing it.

    • David

      But don’t you think there’s a difference between communion and socializing? Between true fellowship and the everyday social interactions you describe: “the kids friends parents you need to get to know so you know whether or not to let your kid go there to play and then on top of that there’s the kids sports practice, game, 4H, music lesson (fill in the blank)…” ?

      How much of our time is spent in honest openness, compared to mere social interaction?

      Compare a typical twitter, facebook entry, text message or e-mail with something like this letter from Cicero to his wife:

      Yes, I do write to you less often than I might, because, though I am always wretched, yet when I write to you or read a letter from you, I am in such floods of tears that I cannot endure it. Oh, that I had clung less to life! I should at least never have known real sorrow, or not much of it, in my life. Yet if fortune has reserved for me any hope of recovering at any time any position again, I was not utterly wrong to do so: if these miseries are to be permanent, I only wish, my dear, to see you as soon as possible and to die in your arms, since neither gods, whom you have worshipped with such pure devotion, nor men, whom I have ever served, have made us any return.

      If all things in life are to be approached with such choice, love, and passion, then by comparison we are sorely lacking in all three, and our lives are as tepid as water when compared with the flavor of life we might have if we truly commune with one another.

    • Casey,

      I think that you experience a lot of the vestiges of “how it used to be.” But much of that is changing. We still live in a town that is 20 years behind the times. Elsewhere, it is worse.

      I also think it is slightly different for women your age. Men are more likely to lose themselves behind the tech, withdrawing to a keyboard in a back room somewhere rather than getting out. For women of that age, this stuff is a supplement, but for men it has become a replacement. I also think that it is becoming a replacement for people younger than us. I know that I had a startling conversation with my 15-year-old niece, who rather than walk next door and hang out with her best friend, chose to sit in her living room and exchange textings. That’s bizarre.

      A couple years ago, I tried scheduling three other couples to get together with us as a group. We could never pull it off, though we tried for almost two years. That’s nuts. Our parent’s generation was not like that. I grew up in a home where my parents entertained guests regularly. We can’t seem to schedule anyone. Now maybe people don’t really like us, but I don’t think that’s the case. I know that I pretty much gave up trying to “the guys” together to do anything. Everyone was always scheduled to the hilt. I got so frustrated that I just stopped calling. The sad thing is that no one else bothered to pick up that slack, as if nothing was being lost for it not happening.


  4. Brian

    Me thinks one has run aground on a rock of ones own religiousness. (dang talking like that sounds snooty) Honestly I’m a little surprised to here you say these things. After all, they are coming from a person who writes a blog and interacts with regular commenters in those blogs. Bet you haven’t met many of us. But it doesn’t mean we aren’t connected.

    Heck, the opposite of what you are saying might be more true. That the technology allows us to be connected in a way that actually matches our interests. I mean, I like many of the things you write about, doesn’t mean I want to go hang out with you at your house.

    Perhaps the technology is just pulling away the pretense we give to many social situations.

    I’ve recently gotten hooked on facebook. And I can say I stay more in touch with folks who I otherwise would have NO social contact with. Yes, its easy and convenient. This is a bad thing?

    And since when did we start defining “assemble” as physical presense only? I guess if I had a conference call with someone, it didn’t actually happen. Or any phone call for that matter. Sorry dude, that just sounds awefully religious to me.

    Now, if you wanted to talk about the evolution of our society that got us to this point of needing or wanting technology to bridge the connection gap, thats something I could get with.

    • The million dollar question here, Brian, is why we are so excited about connecting to people via Facebook with whom we wouldn’t ordinarily connect. It seems to me that something is, at the core, wrong with the way we connect.

      As someone who works from home, I can say that watching people prefer to connect via Facebook rather than over a beer at some halfway point between us is downright depressing. Because this is the preferred way to do things now, even chatting on the phone has become passé. I think that’s sick.

      I used to write long, handwritten letters to friends. The only reason I stopped doing it was because people stopped writing back. It’s not that we ceased to be friends, but that the writing didn’t seem to grab them. I worry about that. I think we are increasingly unable to find joy in the simple act of writing a letter and receiving one. We would rather have 500 “friends” on Facebook than have ten genuine friends who will say, “Yeah, let’s grab a beer and hang out for a couple hours.” That’s sad.

      It’s even sadder when genuine community in the Church is replaced by electronic versions. And increasingly, that seems to be the trend. It makes no sense to me that someone would attend a church that consists of some mega-preacher beaming his sermon to your satellite location in some school basement, with canned worship to a video stream. We are just losing it!

  5. quote: “So much for the real definition behind assembling.”

    It’s more like “disassembling” or “disintegration.” Or how about “Internet-induced deliquescence“?

    But you’re spot on.

    • Deliquescence is the $64,000 word! Ding! Ding!

      If these things supplement, I don’t see the issue. But they don’t supplement; they usurp. And that’s a big problem. The bigger problem is trying to extricate oneself from it all and still maintain some level of human connection. I fear that if I do go off the grid that no one will care enough to stay connected through other less Internet-driven means.

  6. I would say one answer is to find friends among the disenfranchised, disaffected, and disconnected. Make new friends, Dan. It is not like you are being disloyal to the friends you have, which you never see. But this presents a challenge. This may be the challenge you need to take if and when you leave the grid. You will need to find people who are not connected to the grid to be friends with you. How do you do that without the grid? They probably do not go to your church. You probably will not find them in the bowling alley or the bar, and for the same reasons: No one spends any time with them. Why should they go to public places, which are empty most of the time, and if full, full of people who want nothing to do with them?

  7. Dave Block

    I would agree with your points, but I think you’re off target on cause and effect. Did the 5 groups you cite decrease or stop their meetings because of social media, or was it because of over-scheduled families — parents spending too much time working, kids in multiple extra-curricular activities, etc.? I’m guessing it’s the latter. These people, like many adults in America over the past 6 months or so, have taken to Facebook, but even though I’m removed from the situation, I’d wager that’s not why they’re meeting less. They have no trouble “meeting” on Facebook because you can read and send messages, photos, etc. at your leisure. Coordinating schedules among people who are working too many hours and driving their kids from soccer to Boy/Girl Scouts to guitar lessons is a different ballgame altogether.

    And many people like me who have started taking to Facebook and Twitter maintain the desire to spend time with others. I recently helped form a small group with a strong fellowship component and our family is sharing meals with others more than ever. You can enjoy both online and face-to-face interaction, and the former doesn’t necessarily detract from the latter. If I had to choose one, of course I’d take 1 hour of face-to-face interaction over 10 hours of virtual community. But even in the busyness of my own life — watching our kids while my wife works part-time and then making up my lost work hours — I don’t have to make that choice.

    Teen girls aside, I just don’t think many adults are thinking, even subconsciously, “Now do I want to have dinner with that friend or should we do Facebook chat together instead?”

    • Dave,

      Something has to give time-wise. Either we make time for community or we don’t. I think you can make a valid argument that our electronic lives, which are supposedly done at “our convenience,” are beginning to take so much time out of our day that they survive while our face-to-face lives suffer.

      The conversation is at Facebook, ignore it at your peril. One of the reasons I joined was that my friends were increasingly doing a lot of their social interaction online. I was constantly missing out. That sort of feeling perpetuates itself too. If everyone is doing it, you’re a fool not to.

      The coordinating schedules part disturbs me. Why has this disease become pandemic? And I think it is a disease. The level of sleep deprivation in our society is out of control, and that’s partly because everyone’s trying to live two lives. Why? And how does one drop out of that madness?

      I look at Europeans and they tend not to live like this. They’ve found a way to work, maintain a household, and still be social people. We Americans, famed for our outgoing personalities, are going in the opposite direction on this.

      My parents used to entertain all the time, though my father was anything but an extrovert. My parents’ generation was much better at face-to-face entertaining. But very few people my age entertain like that anymore. We are more insular, more connected through impersonal technology. I don’t think that’s a good thing.

      Here are the questions people are not asking:

      1. Why are my kids in 10,000 activities that I must shuttle them all over the planet all day?
      2. Why am I working more and more hours? When did work start creeping into my weekends and evenings?
      3. Why have I started using technology to connect to friends rather than face-to-face (or even over the phone, which while it contains fewer communication markers still outstrips text on a computer)?
      4. Why are so many of us making this mad rush to tech socialization, and what is lost by doing so?
      5. What happens if you shun that rush?

      Last Sunday, I spoke with one of the guys on the worship team at church. He was frustrated by our inability to do some things he feels we should do, things only done through a commitment to extended practice times. When he said he was too committed to his kids’ sports teams to make practice, it was a total disconnect to me. The frustration he was feeling was entirely due to a lack of practice, and the lack of practice was because he was so involved in his kids’ extracurricular sports activities that he couldn’t commit to a regular practice time.

      There’s an answer: Cut out some of the kids’ sports involvement. Or ensure that the night of practice, nothing else is scheduled. It’s so simple as to be mind-boggling to me.

      Look, when I was a kid, no one was shuttling their kids to a million activities. The kids played in the neighborhood. We had pickup baseball, basketball, softball and baseball games all time. SOMEHOW, we turned out normal.

      But today’s parents feel their little darlin’ has got to be scheduled to the max. That’s nuts, especially when it destroys community and makes it impossible to do the simple things that make a genuine community function.

      My wife is scared to death that our son will languish this summer because he’s not scheduled to the hilt in formal events and activities. I keep thinking, what did kids do a hundred years ago? Why can’t our kids do those same things under those same circumstances? If my kids doesn’t take Chinese language lessons and jui-jitsu lessons this summer, will he become a criminal? Will he not be able to get into Harvard? Will his lacrosse scholarship potential go wasted?

      People are losing their minds, I swear. And community is taking a huge hit as a result. Yet if the fabric of our social order begins to fray what will we have left? Every family for itself? Boy, it sure seems to me that this is the path we have chosen.

    • Dave, I agree with Abe Piper’s commentary 1,000 percent.

      Edelen’s Law of Technological Entrenchment says that the tech device introduced to the adults of one generation will become impossible to live without in the following generation. All this computer and telecom stuff came into my life as an adult. My kid will probably not be able to live without it, at least not without a lot of pain and countercultural swimming. But there are a few young adults who did live without it and are seeing its hold on people. They are not in love with it like the generation that created it and are still able to do without because they can imagine living without it. The older generation is too caught up in it, and the very youngest has no experience apart from it. That makes for a very slim demographic group who may be able to guide us out of the mess. More power to them.

  8. merry

    I’m a “teenage girl” and I love this post. :p This has actually been on my mind for a long, long time now. I didn’t get a cell phone until I left for college, and the main reason I use it now it is to call my parents and 911. I came to realize a lot of things this year as I sat on my best friend’s bed night after night, repeating everything I said while she continuously texted on her phone, IMed, and “chatted” on facebook. I felt completely shut out, and talked to her about it, but I’ve found that it’s just what people do and what people have come to expect from others–especially with cell phones; most people I know will text and answer their phones in the middle of any situation, and I’ve long tired of it. As far as internet, I realized I was spending way too much time on facebook myself, and while I decided not to completely cut out all internet usage, I realized many of the reasons I was using social sites was out of pure narcissm. I know many who are much more people-oriented than me probably have pure motives for having hundreds of friends on social networks, but again, when so many are ignoring their face-to-face friendships in favor of a computer screen, I find something wrong with that.

    I’m not ranting about technology by any means–I’m quite thankful we have it. It’s just the etiquette that failed to come with it that has bothered me for so long. Perhaps I’m the only one who has been on the receiving end of bad etiquette? Christians and non-Christians alike, from what I’ve seen there is absolutely no difference in behavior when it comes to technology.

  9. shannon

    I”m not so sure the techonology doesn’t just reflect the culture. We joined a small church a year 1/2 ago that has about 20 families. A couple of older couples, in the younger familes, the moms don’t work and the kids are homeschooled. We are beginning to think it was a mistake. Tho we love the pastor and the people, there is little to no interaction outside the Sunday meeting. At least for us. The moms/kids see each other all week..and the dads take active part…so they ‘interact’. Our children are grown and we both work. My husband has tried to fellowship with the men, offering to take them fishing, trying to set up (with the pastor) some ‘good works” in the community. Not happening. I finally joined facebook to see if that would ‘connect’ me better to the women…they are all on there and every post is “ME” “what i’m doing now’ ‘what game i’m playing’.

    It’s becoming clear that even these good chrisitian folk are focused entirely on thier families and themselves. We had one invitation to dinner when we first attended (and that from a family that soon left). We share many interests with these folks (gardening, for instance) and have invited them to come see ours and frankly ‘fished’ for an invitation to see thiers…nope.
    They are there with emails and offers of help in sickness (tho no one actually came over after my surgery). They really do think they are ‘loving’ each other. Without being asked, my neighbors came over to help..cleaned my kitchen and brought food after we got home.
    It’s weird. Maybe a larger church would have more opportunity for fellowship but reading other folks experiences with (most, not all ) of those, I”m beginnning to think it’s the culture.

    • Shannon,

      Every family a disconnected island. Every family screaming, “Look at us!”—even as they ignore others. That’s where we are as a nation.

      The fan thing on Facebook is a classic example. You can “join” every righteous cause listed on Facebook and feel good about yourself for doing so, but you really don’t perform any genuine service for that group. I used to financially support Voice of the Martyrs, but I don’t any longer. So what is the point of my joining that group, which I did? Brownie points? I dunno. It’s weird. Yet that’s how many people live. They say they are environmentally conscious, but they don’t actually do anything for the environment. We are all concerned for the poor, but how many of us actually do anything with or for the poor? Same in the church; what church doesn’t say, “We’re a friendly, loving church” when it comes down to it? Yet how many truly are?

      For us, it has come to equating saying with doing. And as I have noted in this blog, the world is sick of Christians saying it while not doing it.

  10. You young kids and your Facebook! Why, when I was a lad, all we had to write on a wall was a scrap of chalk! And that was considered vandalism…back when America had values!

  11. bob pinto

    Lots of things to chew on here.

    I am so out of it. My cell phone is seldom activated, I don’t know how to text and I don’t have nor visit facebook or the likes.

    Television is still the vast wasteland in my household. I watch a few retro shows and would rather find something constructive to do than flip through 500 channels and find nothing’s on.

    Your church related meetings- what ever happened to Promise Keepers? I know some things serve a specific purpose and don’t need to perpetuate. It’s not just you.

    Do we need a massive solar flare to knock electricity and all communications for a couple of weeks? What would be the aftermath?

  12. What I have found among church people is that they try so hard to make up spiritual rationales for getting together. They’re endlessly “ministering” (giving advice, asking prayer needs) without really connecting on the level of plain friendship. If you don’t have a pressing prayer need, they don’t know what to do with you.

    So I have to admit that I have hoped that Facebook might be a tool for crossing the divide between persons and that actual real flesh-and-blood friendship might follow from it. That hasn’t happened yet in my case. Oh well.

    I share your frustration, Dan. Hey, can we meet half-way for a beer? Let’s see, that would be somewhere in Eastern PA I reckon!

  13. Dan,

    I’m not going to pretend to have read all the other comments here, but I would just say this: Don’t pull yourself from the cyberworld completely, you’d cut many off that you may not otherwise reach. While I would agree that where this leads to (a serious lack of face to face communication and relationships) I do see a place for things like Facebook and am glad to have people like you as part of my friends list. Let’s face it, without this blog of yours and Facebook I would have virtually no contact with you since moving on to another church! I miss seeing people like you and your wife on a regular basis (once a week) and it is the virtual world that allows me to keep contact with you all. I know this is a selfish post in reply, but I value people like you and wish we had more actual face time; right now this is my best way of communication with you.

    Keep up the writing, don’t kick me of your friends list, and we should talk, like actually talk sometime!

  14. Maybe we need to adjust to the culture, Dan. I just saw a Facebook comment posted by a faithfully married man with three children. He spent last night playing XBox 360 with his guy friends.

  15. Brian

    Dan, dude, sorry, but I just can’t get with you one this post.

    Texting: Me and my friends make comments about things while we aren’t together. This makes us feel more connected when we aren’t around each other.

    Facebook: I have colleagues in my business and family members scattered across the country. These are folks that I can’t otherwise “assemble” with. With facebook, I’ve had more engagement with them than I otherwise would have.

    Twitter: I just don’t get it. I have an account, but I don’t frequent enough. When I do, I usually find very interesting links to stuff.

    The thing about the social media is that they break down the geographic and economic limits to connecting.

    You can rage against the machine all you want. But I don’t think it makes much sense, neither is it gospel, despite your quoted verse. You can’t turn back the socio-economic structure that has developed in this country, which you have lamented about in a previous post. I came from an ag based economic state. I lived on 10 acres. I knew what it meant for neighbors to just drop by. In no way do I think thats better.

    Look, my wife is the pre- mid- and post-kids-school uber involved mom. I know what that means, and in some ways I think you are right about the over-involved helicopter parents. I think the problem comes from when we were thrust into the real world as little kids and not knowing what we were suppose to do. My wife’s and I parents weren’t there or involved at all. The were detached and too involved in their own “assemblies” of The Elks Lodge and tupperware parties. They didn’t have time for us. So much for arguing for assembling.

    So is my generation over-reacting to that? Yeah, probably. But I would rather have that then detached parents. I don’t know what utopia you think we should go back to.

    I grew up playing football in the streets with my friends, sleep overs and school dances. Then it was sneeking out at night to meet girls and drink. Then it was breaking the law and arrests. I would rather have the over involved parent to that any day.

    So if my son or daughter wants to have a cell to text and keep connected with their friends, while my wife drives them to soccer, dance and art practice? I’m doing it.

    I don’t connect your neighbor’s son to you losing groups. If all your groups are falling apart, maybe God is preparing to move you into something new.

  16. On the one hand, I agree with you, Dan. Everyone is over-scheduled and over-committed, but not to the things that matter from an eternal perspective. As a pastor’s wife, I’m right in the midst of that struggle to get people to “assemble” together for even the simplest activities, like Sunday service and Bible study groups.
    However, I must disagree with your idea to unplug from the electronic world in which we live. Paul didn’t avoid the meeting place in Corinth where the thinkers and teachers of the day gathered to express their views, even though it wasn’t a “Christian” or even a Jewish forum. He jumped right in where the people who needed Christ WERE assembled, and made himself, and the message he brought, relevant to them. When he couldn’t be somewhere in person, he wrote letters and sent them by the hand of messengers. If he’d had Internet access, do you think he would have used it? Can we take advantage of the fact that the lost are flocking to Facebook, MySpace and Twitter?
    I live in a small (pop. 2500) town in the mountains. The word “isolated” doesn’t even begin to describe it. People live here because they WANT to be disconnected. Facebook has given me a way to touch base with friends from high school, friends in ministry who are scattered throughout the nations, and to make new acquaintances through various groups and organizations, many of whom I plan to meet face to face at conferences and so forth. In fact, I’m able to “chat” with people in my own community I’d probably never talk to because we’re all in difference seasons of life. I’m not trying to avoid anyone by interacting with them online instead of “meeting them halfway.” In fact, I “talk” to most of them more now than I ever did, or could, before the advent of social networking.
    My husband shares a daily “devotional” on his Facebook page that has been an encouragement to many people he’d never be able to connect with person-to-person. He’s been able to use texting to counsel a woman going through a marital crisis, and we both use text messaging to interact with our teenage kids when they are out of the house. I’ve found that my son and I can communicate very effectively, about embarrassing, and touchy subjects, via e-mail.
    So, as the world around us changes, do we adapt to it, the way St. Patrick adapted to the Celtic world in Ireland, or do we stay where we’re familiar and comfortable, like the Shakers, and become irrelevant to our generation? I say take advantage of every opportunity and do the most we can with whatever avenue, or platform, we’ve been given to communicate with the people around us in ways they can understand and receive. Jesus did.

  17. You said, “We are preferring them to meeting together face to face. We no longer assemble.”

    You use the word “we,” but what you’re saying certainly doesn’t apply to my experience.

    I use social networking tools like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogging, etc. to connect with people, and my ministry has be enhanced as a result – not taken away from.

    Face to face interaction hasn’t diminished – it’s increased. In fact, I’ve had Bible studies with people face to face as a DIRECT RESULT of interacting with them on a social networking site FIRST.

    I hear what you’re saying, but I’m afraid your critical attitude toward tools you can use to connect with people might hinder your ministry in the 21st century world.

  18. Brian

    Read back through some of these comments Dan. I feel ya dude. You can be a curmudgeon as long as you don’t move to the back woods of Montana and start writing manifestos.

    I hear ya on the super-duper-uber-really-really-big and fancy churches with their satellite campuses, e-newsletters, podcasts, chats, forums, small groups, large groups, theme-groups, discipleship groups, womens groups, mens groups, youth groups, triangle groups, blogs, twitters, blitters, linked in, linked out, sound-men, visual-women, projectors, injectors, subjectors, Sunday school, Schools of ministry and yada yada yada. Huff! I’m tired!

    I’m sorry where was Jesus and His peace again. I forgot with all my assembling, connecting and plugging in.

    Frankly, I have WAY more opportunities to be absolutely baked in Christianity. And really, I’m sick of it. I want to get away and be alone.

    So, go now, go away. I’m having Jesus time…

  19. Jim D

    “You’d think the Church in America would have something to say about this. It has: satellite churches that beam the televised service to different substation halls. And people are eating that up.”

    Some of those mega-churches that beam satellite uplinks actually require members to attend local weekly small group meetings to get connected. I attended Andy Stanley’s mega-church in Atlanta when I was there over the weekend on business. I was actually impressed. They have two satellite churches as well as the main church in Alpharetta, GA. They have around 22,000 attendees per week. Andy Stanley always presents a biblically-based message, and you are encouraged (possibly required) to attend a local small group if you join as a member. People who want to grow, can. I have also attended small churches (under 200 members) where a person can still get lost “in the crowd”.

    Communication and connection is still the responsibility of the individual whether technology is involved or not.

    • Jim,

      My experience has been that churches that rely on small groups to be their sole source of connection and in-depth Bible teaching end up disconnected and largely biblically ignorant. At least that is the case here in the United States. In other countries that have a different sense of community and individuality, they may actually flourish under those same conditions.

      While it’s definitely possible to be on the outside looking in even in a small church, it’s far less likely, all other things being equal.

      Communication and connection are both two-way streets. You can’t have communication in a church where most people can’t even get a meeting with senior leadership. And you can’t truly connect when the sheer numbers of people overwhelm the 500-person personal interaction limitation in each of us. Plus, while some responsibility lies within the individual, I believe the greater responsibility lies within the church and its leadership. Ideally, if you walk into someone else’s turf, THEY are the ones who have the obligation to connect and communicate with you. That’s how the Church must work. The opposite is typically a dictatorship or communist-style state, where the individual is nothing and the collective state holds all the cards. In that case, the individual must plead his case because the state doesn’t recognize him unless he speaks out. And even then, what he has to say is usually regarded as trivial because he is not usually part of the system. (Having been in many megachurches, I can attest that most follow the dictatorship model no matter how they “democratically” they structure their hierarchies. Of course, YMMV.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *