I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
- 3 John 1:9-10
“This is not the place for a Christian critique of the place of technology in the future. Suffice it to say that we must resist all forms of idolatry of technology and guard against three features in particular. First, technology contains agnostic tendency that emphasizes information and the mind and therefore downplays the body. (It is telling that the future promised us by the scientist-kings is always a matter of minds, intelligence and information, and never anything to do with bodies.) Second, technology has a tendency to automate so much of human life that it undermines human agency and responsibility. Third, technology, with its seeming neutrality, tends to rule out questions of right and wrong from consideration. But technology’s very status as an idol remind us that modernity magnifies evil, so that even the techno-utopias of tomorrow will suffer from the same crooked timber of humanity that has dogged all human endeavor since the fall.”
- Os Guinness, Impossible People
And as Guinness started this paragraph, I will continue…
This is not the place for a secular rule-following to reduce exposure to COVID-19. When not allowed to do anything other than livestreaming, livestreaming is better than nothing.
As for Diotrephes, it is hard to say whether he is the first Christian cult leader or if he got the idea of protecting against “false doctrine” by closing the doors to all outsiders, even to those who physically followed Jesus. I used the Scripture above because Diotrephes would not accept John, assuming the Apostle John as the writer. The author was responsible for sending elders and teachers to the churches, yet Diotrephes refused to let them come and kicked out anyone who was a member of the church who thought the visitors should come. It seems that the motive of Diotrephes is to shut off the congregation and isolate them from outside influences, something that Satan loves to do. This might not be a bad idea when churches were being persecuted, but even during persecution in the first century, the churches met.
We are being persecuted these days. In Australia, David Robertson talked about a soccer match (to him, football) where about 30,000 were in attendance. A rugby final match in Australia had 50,000 in attendance. Both stadiums could hold a lot more, but the concept of social distancing due to COVID was applied. Yet, Hillsong has a stadium that can hold 30,000, but all churches are limited to 250 people. The double standard clearly points to limiting worship services, and possibly persecuting the church at large.
Our church blindly follows the states guidelines without question and the government’s suggestions to the church regarding security of the church building, although there is supposed to be a separation of church and state – but only in favor of the state shutting down the church. The sanctuary, since church attendance has been allowed, is far less than the allowed attendance. People are opting to stay home. Some of that is due to the restrictions. In church, you are not allowed to sing, but you can sing at the top of your lungs at home. At church, you must stay in your pew until the usher comes to escort you to the door. At home, you can pause the service if you must go to the bathroom.
But I feel the vibes of Diotrephes in the rules within the church, and the security rules that does not allow the door to unlock until fifteen minutes before Sunday school starts (computerized locks throughout the building). Let’s make everything so restrictive that the church ceases to be a church. And Satan may have that in mind.
I am teaching Sunday school each week. We get together and sit 6 feet apart from one another and nearly shout for others to hear us. I am the only one with a faceshield while everyone else wears their mask, but it works. I should not say this, but a group of ladies, after the lesson was over last week, had a group hug. When I looked up from my paperwork (attendance, writing in names of visitors, etc.), one of them saw me looking and they said, “To heck with the rules! We need physical contact!”
While I support some churches’ defiance of the guidelines, we are instructed to honor the government. We need to find middle ground.
Regarding Guinness’ points, technology is all about information. This blog can transfer information from my brain to the screen and then to the reader, but the Holy Spirit needs to be involved if anything more than information transfer occurs, both through me and the reader. Technology does not know what good is or evil. The documentary, The Social Dilemma, talks about the only thing that the social media platforms evaluate is what you like, what buttons you click and then the social media notifications, suggestions, etc. force you into the mold of your own choosing, never hearing opposing views and even getting information about opposing views being bad – driving the divide in each country even further apart. As for the USA, social media has done much more to create divide than the president. In fact, the concept that the president created the divide was constructed by the media and social media. He was just crude and rough enough for everyone to want to believe him to be the bad guy.
So, what will happen if the COVID cases spike? Will we have a lockdown that will prevent any human contact? When is it okay to have a group hug?
We should be safe, but learning and growing in the Spirit requires more than information transfer. We need to be able to pack in the pews, sing lustily at the top of our lungs, and see the smiles on other people’s faces.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.