The headline read “Church as we know it is over”. Article author Dave Adamson, a “social media pastor”, claimed the “location-centric” “physical attendance model” is “dead” and recommended an “audience-centric” model, both physical and “omni-channel” digital, likened to a lane-less swimming pool.
As someone who has tried swimming distance in a lane-less pool, I did not like Adamson’s analogy, even if it well-illustrated his point. Regardless, people should be able to explore freely a church’s digital content, and such digital content need not compete with but may increase physical attendance. However, for those faithful to an incarnational Lord, who are gathered into His incarnational Body by His incarnational Means of Grace, church attendance cannot, as Adamson described, really “decentralize”.
The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity took on real, physical flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary in order to preach and die for your sins and mine in that flesh. The Christ did not download, post on His wall, or tweet from heaven, nor did He send a message via Instagram, Snapchat, or any such thing. The Good News of His death and resurrection and His free forgiveness of sins for those who repent of their sins and trust in Him may be “preached” via such media, but the water of Holy Baptism, the touch of individual Holy Absolution, and the real, physical food and drink of the Sacrament of the Altar cannot be so administered (maybe if we had Star Trek’s transporters and replicators).
Arguably like a laned-pool, decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40), God Himself serves us through His Means of Grace, as the true Church physically gathers around Him Who is really, physically present in those ways, and then we love one another not only in social-media words but also in physical deeds (1 John 3:18).
One generation may not recognize or anticipate the ways later or earlier generations communicate, but, Adamson not withstanding, changing virtual media serve best when they do not substitute for our physically attending to our God and receiving His gifts in His unchanging and ever-lasting physical Church (Matthew 16:18)!
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.