• God was smart enough to invent a place for the risen Jesus to be revealed…that is also a great place to have meaningful relationships.

There is a picture somewhere that shows the look on my face. I had just unwrapped an Atari Super Pong IV. Wired controllers. Four games. No cartridges. In color! Our 500-pound TV had to be on channel 3. At 14 years old, I knew I had arrived. Everything else would be downhill from this moment.

Last night, due to my driveway being harder to navigate than Everest’s north slope, our weekly midweek Bible study was held online. We all know the drill. Each of us, safely ensconced in our homes, enjoying church together. Virtually.

I officiated the funeral a few years ago for a sweet gentleman who was a member of my church. He was in his 90s. He grew up on the plains of North Dakota. He told me of the day when his family moved from their sod home. When they got electricity and indoor plumbing. When their plow horse froze in a blizzard. It occurred to me that he grew up in a time that was more like Biblical times than modern times.

I have straddled an unprecedented technological revolution. Sitting around a Mojo’s pizza, I have to tell my kids to put their black, wafer-sized supercomputers away so we can actually have a conversation. This was not an issue in ancient Corinth, pre-World War II North Dakota or 1970s Oklahoma. Today I can open my garage door, pay bills, buy Cocoa Puffs and write a newspaper column without leaving my house. It is a good time to be a dog.

But despite all the convenience, I worry. Someone told me about his World of Warcraft friend who died IRL. So their clan gathered (online) to have a memorial service. Unfortunately, however, a rival clan of orcs found out about it and raided them during the eulogy. Millions in pixelated wealth was lost. Tears were shed. I was mystified.

Sometime between Super Pong IV and World of Warcraft, I wrote a Master’s thesis about the relationships in the early church described in the New Testament. Relationships that were discussed as frequently as theology. Relationships that were intimate, empathetic and the ecosystem of Christian discipleship. Relationships that are eroding as we emphasize inspiritainment and passive church participation.  The technological revolution we take for granted is only exacerbating this trend.

Virtual church is a good thing. But Scripture is clear: we need one another. We need necks to hug. We need our hands held when we pray. We need to see someone’s face when we tell them they remind us of Jesus. We need to look into their eyes when we share our confessions or prayer concerns.

I’ve heard singing hymns and watching a sermon by the fireplace in your footsie pajamas is terrific. But the best life offers will not be found online. Real-life church is still the place God intended to bring us life-changing human connection. So go back to church and enjoy the love and friendship of real people. No orcs allowed.