With social networking sites and the ubiquity of Internet access, churches and pastors are exploring how to use these technologies to reach their communities. Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv, a cyber church, admits, “We were blown away at how people could actually worship along [online]. The whole family will gather around the computer, and they’ll sing and worship together. Instead of trying to get people to come to a church, we feel like we can take a church to them.”
Would Paul endorse replacing the physical gathering of the body of believers with a virtual church experience from one’s smart phone? From our study of 1 Corinthians, the answer is arguably “no.” Of course the Corinthians weren’t tempted to do church via iPhone, but they did struggle to understand our corporate identity as the people of God. We haven’t always understood why it is that the church exists and why it is that we gather each week for worship. The Corinthians treated the worship gathering as a place to showcase their spiritual gifts. We often look for the feel–good experience of church. Both attitudes fail to see that God meant for us to seek not to be strengthened, but to strengthen when we gather.
Paul’s summary comments are offered in today’s reading. The believers should gather together to hear from God’s Word and to speak to God through prayer and praise. They are called to be expectant and eager to witness the spontaneous movement of the Spirit of God for the purpose of the common good. While there’s freedom in the gatherings (it’s unlikely that they had bulletins outlining exactly what would be said and when), nevertheless, there are restrictions put in place. These restrictions, such as forbidding more than one person from talking at a time or requiring interpretation for a person speaking in tongues, do not restrain the Spirit but promote order.