This summer the Gauss side of the family had a gathering on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico at a great house with an even greater location and a week of togetherness. One problem:  There was one family member who couldn’t make it.  Initially this was a bummer because we were so close to having “everyone” together.  Then we remembered it is 2018!

For the week we were together we Face-timed our missing family member. We walked the beach, watched the sunset, spotted dolphins, attended a bridal shower and even played board games together.  It truly was remarkable how much fun we had together through the power of modern technology.

The blessing of technology has allowed Baptism sponsors to make their vows from remote locations. Family and friends have attended funerals and funeral lunches, crying and laughing and finding hope in the Lord together.  Through podcasts and websites, shut-ins and travelers can stay connected to the family of faith at Cross.

In spite of all these blessings there are real challenges with “digital presence.” Digital presence can make us feel as if we are there when in reality we are missing important aspects.  The ability to touch is invaluable; a handshake, a hug, a pat on the back or a playful hair messing all improve our connectedness.  Current research continues to indicate that we have never been more connected as a society and at the same time we have never felt more alone!

There is no substitute for being physically surrounded by those who love you. The ability to participate in the group tasks of decorating or cleaning up increases bonding, purpose and belonging.  The ability to volunteer to hold someone’s jacket or look for lost keys, while simple or silly, are all part of what it means to be human, connected.

Over the last decade I have grown a deep appreciation for the ability to minister to families through text, Facebook, or video chat. We have utilized these technologies in the Call process for staff members, worship services and the like.  But they cannot replace the ministry of presence.

When people gather in physical proximity, it changes us and stretches us. We are less likely to feel alone or left out.  We are able to share meals, experiences and just “be” with one another.  Use technology to help connect, but remember, it doesn’t replace actually being connected.

Hebrews 10:24-25 – “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.”