Updated: Dec 7, 2020
This one is for you, Vena…
I have always been intrigued by social media and what people post. From the sublime to the ridiculous, I find myself both informed and entertained. For me, it’s a gauge of the state of the human heart. From the constant selfies to amateur photography. From games, bad jokes, and funny videos to surveys, hilarious moments, and terrifying broadcast. From social justice movements and entrepreneurs to the bullies who throw their rocks and hide their hands. For obvious reasons, I am also fascinated by the messages of many apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Some good, some not so good. Since the onslaught of the pandemic, I have seen my share of the prophets for profit, too. Everybody ain’t legit, but everybody never was. (I said it like I said it.) There have always been some wolves in sheep’s clothing. Jesus warned us.
For the many preachers and teachers that have taken to cyber space to share God’s message of the good news, hope, and love, I have also seen irate brick-and-mortar leaders take to cyber space to bash them. It all makes me go, “Hmmmmmm?” I wonder if they bashed those preachers who erected brick-and-mortar spaces when they thought they were not called to do so? Did they slam them from moving away from “appropriate” leadership? Are they bemoaning “un-vetted” voices because they genuinely care for the souls of God’s people? Or are the brick-and-mortar churches taking a financial hit because people have become unfettered and unaffiliated? I just ask because I have never, in all the banter, heard a concern for the souls of the people of God or any expression of the fear that they might be aligning themselves with someone who might mislead them. What I most often hear is that those preaching in cyber space need to submit themselves to someone in authority. Sadly, the authority referred to is not God.
I am reminded of a story about Peter and other apostles who were sent to jail for preaching and healing people. During the night, an Angel of the Lord released them, and they were found in the temple teaching the next morning. The captain of the temple and the chief priests were outraged! The apostles were brought before the council and charged to stop teaching in Jesus’ name. The apostles responded, “We must obey God rather than man.” The apostles expounded the gospel to the very men who had arrested them, and the men were uber offended. After a brief exchange, the leaders came to this conclusion, “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)
Many cyber preachers and teachers have been occupying cyber space for quite a while. It is the brick-and-mortar folks who are playing “catch-up”. A large number of traditional church leaders have been forced by the pandemic into this new space and now want to govern the very space that they once disregarded as irrelevant. So perhaps their angst is really that until recently, they have only been concerned with people showing up in their churches to hear the gospel and to finance their programs. Now they are realizing there is a harvest over the air ways that they have been neglecting. They settled for reaching those in the “hood” who could make it to the house. When they were encouraged to reach people through social media, they set up a (often neglected) Facebook page and continued business as usual and missed an opportunity for global outreach.
I am amazed that church leaders are always asking God to do a new thing but are always looking for Him to do it the old way. Yet, for new things to exist, old things must be torn down and rebuilt. I believe many of the people that churches have ignored because they did not look like their members, act like their members, did not have what their members have, had too many questions, answered back, and challenged the agenda are finding spaces to grow and become more like Christ online. Perhaps those people who refused to be shut up, who got tired of being shut out and shut down were compelled by God to create global communities where all are truly welcomed, their gifts honored, and a thinking faith is encouraged. Maybe, just maybe, this is how the disciples of Christ will do greater works. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12, NIV)
So Merry Christmas, y’all! Whoever you are keep on preaching, keep on teaching, and keep your eye on the prize. I see you and I honor your labor. See you next year!