Tuesday, December 16, 2008

the fellowship of facebook

I once asked a new friend of mine, "Where do you go to church?"
His answer? "I don't go to church--we are the church."

I knew what he meant. The greek word for church is "ecclesia," which can be translated assmebly. In the New Testament, this word is used to describe both the Body of Christ at large and local congregatons.

This might sound a bit heretical (or perhaps blasphemous to some), but Facebook has taken on the role of church for me in some interesting ways. The popular social utility has also broadened--and better-defined--my understanding of the Bride of Christ.

Every day on Facebook, I meet with fellow believers--from all around the planet coming from every religious background imaginable. I'll chat with Stephen in Sudan, discovering with great delight what the Lord is teaching him--and how to pray for his ministry. I'll drop a birthday greeting to a missionary friend in Russia then look at family pics posted by Krispin's mom in China. Through profile updates, I'll learn that our buddies in New Hampshire finally got their heat turned on (scratch that off the prayer list), one of my daughters is having a bad day and needs a bit of encouragement, or that along-time family friend got to go home from the hospital and won't need a visit today.

Just this week--because of my connections on Facebook--I discovered that:
1. A good friend had surgery
2. Willie needs a job
3. Another friend needs help moving after Christmas
4. The recent snowfall which has paralyzed Portland is causing a mixture of grief and joy.

On Facebook, I've been able to comfort, exhort, encourage, instruct, and pray. It has connected me with people I've not even thought about for years, bringing them back into my life with the click of a "confirm as friend" button. I even think Facebook has made me a wee bit less ethnocentric, as I've connected with the Body of Christ in a multitude of different countries and cultures.

And I've been ministered to by my Facebook friends. When I updated my status with news of our broken water heater (and my head cold), I was flooded with offers of help and recipes for chicken soup--and not a few prayers!

Facebook, of course, won't replace my local congregation, where I gather with flesh-and-blood believers to worship the Lord each Sunday. But it can--and has--broadened my understand of the Church Universal and heightened my sense of connectedness to the Body of Christ.

How awesome is that?