Welcome to Thursday’s Podcast. Our reading today is 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13. Today we’ll focus on verse 13:
‘And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.’
One of the key causes of conflict among our children is the TV.
It seems difficult to settle on a TV programme our eldest daughter and son will actually watch together. We have sophisticated diplomatic ways of ensuring each person gets their allotted time. Occasionally I have used the phrase – which I swore I never would – ‘when I was your age we only had 4 channels… and the only choices were to change the channel or turn it off’. Is it me or was life in the 80s and early 90s a lot simpler? I digress.
My kids who are known as Generation Alpha – they will only have ever known a plethora of digital choice. Trips to Blockbuster on a Friday night – I used to love those – will be confined to cultural history. This generation are the YouTubers. Take Ryan’s World, a YouTube channel in which Ryan from Texas reviews toys and games to an audience of 23.5 million subscribers. The channel, which employs 28 people, reportedly generated $26 million in 2019. Ryan – guess what – is only 9 years old.
If there’s anything this current ‘cultural moment’ exasperated by Covid-19 has brought up – it’s the question of what will the church look like in the future? The closer of church buildings has thrown us further into the digital world – our church among many – offer what those clever people at Netflix have known for a while – the future multiple digital choice.
From Vicars setting themselves on fire and going viral in the process, to the Priest – all robed up – about to celebrate communion alone (online) to have his holy moment disturbed by an Amazon delivery driver hammering on the door – Covid-19 has changed the way we are church at the moment.
It’s been interesting for our own church too. Some people who shall remain nameless have told me that they enjoy STC online and watch from the comfort of their beds. But I said to Mick and Tricia that wasn’t cool. Only kidding – it wasn’t them. Some other folks I’ve chatted too – socially distant of course – and I must add, from another wonderful church in Sheffield, have told me that ‘they don’t want to go back’ to normal church. They prefer online church. One man told me he liked it because he ‘didn’t need to leave his house’. You can sit in your PJs, eat your breakfast and feel connected.
Is this the future? Well from what I see people talking about online– the answer seems to be yes. Sure, churches will meet again as the lockdown is lifted no doubt. But it seems as though Digital Church – or least people accessing church digitally – is here to stay.
Honestly I’m not totally what I think about all that. It needs some serious reflection. But today’s Bible passage may have something to say to us as we embrace the world of the digital church.
Paul is tackling what the NIV strongly calls idleness. In fact he says in verse 6 to keep away from lazy Christians. Pretty strong stuff. So, what’s the issue?
Well the issue at hand is that to the apostle Paul church is primarily a family. It’s where you belong and contribute. Paul’s tackling those who are not giving of themselves to the communal life of the church. The early church was a communal beast. For example, Deirdre might bring her guitar and Alan might bring some food and so on… and a prophetic song to accompany Deirdre. They’re on Spotify. Check them out. It was a family – communal thing where there was an expectation that everyone contributed – not just consumed. Hospitality was a big deal and it’s said that some Christians – perhaps fearful at the end of the world was around the corner – were just consuming and in some cases living off others’ generosity and doing little to contribute. A bit like end times couch surfing. Hence why Paul states ‘never tire of doing good’. Don’t tire of contributing. Keep investing. Keep sharing hospitality – it’s the nature of church life.
The missiologist Alan Hirsch says that our culture has discipled us to become archetypal Consumers. To buy, to consume and to take.
Surely then a creator God – who made us to create – wants us to contribute to the world around us. The church has gone through many transitions over its lifetime. There’s no doubt that online is here and dare I say (embrace it for all the opportunities it brings to connect with a whole new set of people) to stay, but my hunch is that going forward into the future to be counter cultural we will have to take seriously the call to ‘not give up meeting together’ Hebrews 10:25. We may need to take a stand against the overwhelming desire to consume our favourite church preacher – the way we consume entertainment on Netflix and instead in whatever small and simple way we can so – we’re going to be contributors not just consumers.
Thank you for the gift of technology – thank you that we are able to say connected. We pray for wisdom to balance the call to be community both in person and online.
BIBLE READING: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (NIV)
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, labouring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’
We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.