Church Fellowship in an Age of Technology

photo of technology which has replaced fellowship

Technology saturates our world. It has infiltrated our churches and replaced biblical fellowship. This isn’t really surprising since technology has captured the minds of the younger generations. Studies have shown that the average high school student is on the Internet nine hours a day!

The iPhone and the next generation of smart phones have completely revolutionized how we view the world. You pick your music, you pick what you want to read, you pick who you “friend” or “follow” on Facebook and Twitter. In essence, the technological culture around us today makes us mini-creators. We mold our environment, and whatever we don’t like we don’t allow. 

This technological revolution affects our church life (and specifically our fellowship) more than we realize. Even before COVID-19 it was far easier to sit down and live stream a service rather than to actually get up and go to church and sit next to real people. Now, in the wake of COVID-19, live streaming is becoming the new norm for many churches.

In an age where technology seems to be providing the answer to our problems, we need to be reminded that an essential part of biblical fellowship is real and physical interaction.  If you examine the idea of fellowship in Scripture, the core idea is participation in relationship (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Cor. 6:14; 1 John 1:3, etc.). In light of this understanding, here are three benefits of true biblical fellowship.

1. Biblical Fellowship Weeds Out Sin

Sin loves privacy and hates fellowship. It is important to be a part of a group of people who will invade your privacy and actually care about how you live your life. The famous passage on church discipline, Matthew 18:15–18, speaks about confronting one another’s faults and helping sanctify one another by correction. A significant part of biblical fellowship is promoting the confession of sin and the restoration of brothers and sisters. This cannot happen in a virtual church, or just by listening to sermons.

Further, if you are a part of a church where people don’t really know each other, people just come together on Sunday and listen to a sermon, then you are not part of a true fellowship. True fellowship invests in one another’s lives by confronting sin and encouraging one another in godliness (1 John 1:6–7; Phil 1:5). This may be uncomfortable at times. How many of us like to be asked how our marriages are doing? Or, if we are doing our jobs with integrity? It might be unpleasant or inconvenient, but God has designed fellowship as a means to invade our private lives and help us grow.

2. Biblical Fellowship Fosters Obedience

In addition to the previous point, it is worthwhile to point out that obedience to Christ’s commands for the church necessitates physically gathering together. For example, think about baptism (Matt 28:19-20) and communion (1 Cor 11:17-32). Each of these is mandated in the church fellowship, and neither can be accomplished virtually. Additionally, we have a direct mandate not to forsake the assembling together (Heb 10:24-25). When we look at Scripture it is clear that there are certain commands that cannot be obeyed apart from the physical fellowship of believers.  

3. Biblical Fellowship Proclaims God’s Victory

When we gather together we also proclaim that God has reversed the curse of Genesis 3 and has created a new humanity through Jesus. The gathering together of all different races, all different occupations, and all different ages is a unique thing. The world looks at a healthy church and wonders why an 8-yr old likes to go to the same place an 80-yr old goes. Or, why Asians hang out with African-Americans? The physical gathering together of churches proclaims this creation of a new humanity in Christ. Paul said that his purpose in proclaiming the mystery of the church was, “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:10). This means that God’s glory is not only proclaimed to our neighbors, but also to the angels and demons. Why do we go to church instead of watch it on a screen? Because the fellowship and unity we display together shows the angels and demons that God is wise above all else and that His power has accomplished a new, undeserved redemption which is unparalleled in nature.

Although there are many benefits of technology, we must also be wise enough to understand that technology cannot replace true biblical fellowship. No matter how fast one’s WiFi is, or how reliable our live streaming capabilities are—there will never be a replacement for physically going to church.

Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs The Bible Sojourner podcast and Youtube channel.

One Comment

  • William

    As a follow up, I would be great to give some practical ways to fellowship virtually, especially in light of COVID-19.

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