In 2012 I did a thing. I hopped a one-way flight from St Paul to Albuquerque NM, spent a couple of days seeing the sights and shopping, bought a Harley, and rode Route 66 east. I spent about a week making my way through odd stops here and there, including the International UFO Museum, the Devil’s Rope Museum, the Cadillac Ranch, a YMCA t-ball game, an arena football game, the Mark Twain Museum, and the future birthplace of James Tiberius Kirk.
I called it the Free Ride Roadtrip. It was quite the experience.
For a week, I was traveling alone. It was great. I’m an introvert, so I recharge by being alone with my thoughts. But then something interesting started to happen. When I’d go to a restaurant, instead of sitting in a booth in the back by myself, I started sitting at tables in the middle of the room or next to the bar-places where people sit and talk. I started having random conversations with strangers. I had breakfast in Texas at the table next to a very large guy riding a very small motorcycle from California to Florida to see his daughter. I had a burger in Iowa City next to a business man that worked for the same company my wife used to work for and was in town to see his daughter, who was attending the University of Iowa. I even talked church and ministry with a Chick-fil-A employee that was interning at a church, then I happened to attend his church the next day, where he introduced me to the owners of the local Harley Davidson shop.
Those are a lot of personal details about strangers that I randomly met, from a guy that doesn’t like meeting strangers. But I had those experiences, and I met those people, because I found out that, despite my introvertedness, I still needed human contact (I was a little disappointed in myself for that…). Relationships are important.
We see that from the beginning of humanity. After creating Adam, God said:
It is not good that the man should be alone…Genesis 2:18
We were created to be in relationships from the beginning. It is a necessary aspect of being human. This is reinforced by those strange stories of hermits, recluses and individuals who have been stranded alone. The stories and pictures of those types of people do not make you think, “wow, that is a well-adjusted, mentally healthy individual!” Ending up with a bloody volleyball you call “Wilson” might be one of the better-case scenarios.
We need each other. We need the social contact, the support, the ideas, the balance that we can bring to each other. I think people are understanding that better now than ever. Social isolation and stay-at-home orders are limiting our interactions with each other. When we do interact, those connects are becoming more important-I’ve had more, longer conversations on the street and during those limited times out and about in the last month than I think I’ve every had in the past. We are appreciating each other more and more.
The types of people we surround ourselves with makes an impact too. There is a reason that addicts and alcoholics are forced to change their lifestyles and relationships; those relationships aided them in going down a path that was not healthy, and in order to get off that path they need new relationships.
Thats why church is so important to believers. We need the positive support of like-minded people. We need others that understand the struggles and difficulties that we face and followers of Christ in a lost world. We need people that can point out when we are saying or doing something that isn’t right or good. We push each other forward in the mission God has us on, advancing His kingdom together and helping each other stay focused on the hope in front of us. The author of Hebrews says this:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 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 10:23-25
We help each other hold onto the truth of the gospel, we remain focused on loving God and loving others, and we do that best by meeting together. That is church. And that is something that we are unable to do adequately right now.
Church online via livestream is what it is. It is the best we can do in a bad situation. But, it is no replacement for meeting together, supporting each other, loving each other face-to-face rather than face-to-screen.
This will pass, and it is my desperate prayer that more and more people will see the value of church fellowship, and that our churches will appreciate, and not take for granted, the full meaning of “fellowship”. It isn’t just coffee time. It is a time to sharpen each other, to love each other, to encourage and challenge each other. And I hope we come back to church and begin doing those things in earnest, on purpose, and for the glory of God.