NOTE: This post is rather a long read – if you would prefer to listen to an audio version it is here for your use. It is about 14 minutes long. Otherwise just carry on reading below.
How are you doing? With local restrictions not being lifted and national restrictions being tightened up again – maybe even stretching until Christmas – it leaves me heaving another sigh. Life is tough going isn’t it? Do you feel it too?
Do you remember what it was like way back? – when we used to meet together every Sunday, and Mondays as well if you include the prayer meetings.
ZOOM church is just not the same is it?
Or are you just “ZOOMED OUT” as the phrasing goes these days?
I want to share with you 5 reasons why – to put it bluntly – God isn’t there when I log in to ZOOM on a Sunday.
DISCLAIMER: This is not my story alone! It is a combination of thoughts, complaints, longings and imagination, pieced together from many snippets I have heard over recent months. I have never experienced all these things, and certainly not in their entirety 100% of the time. They come and go in little bits, with varying frequency and intensity, sneaking up on me when I least expect them.
In writing this I was looking to identify the plank in my own eye rather than the speck in someone else’s and would ask that you read it with the same purpose.
So here they are –
5 reasons why God is not on ZOOM
Spoiler alert – I hope you will read this post now that I have written it, but if you don’t have the time or the inclination you could, though I hope you won’t, skip on down to reason number 6. 😊
The Bible says –
do not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,Hebrews 10:25
But we can’t do it properly can we? Meet together that is, because zoom really doesn’t feel the same as being in the same room as someone does it?.
Look at it like this – I used to get up on a Sunday morning – a day I tried to set aside for worshipping God and meeting with God’s people. I would have an eye on the clock and at some point in time, I would pick up my bag and a Bible, and set out to church. My phone would get put on silent, and there was an expectation that God would be there and speaking to me. I would hear and be encouraged by a Bible verse or two even if I had rather neglected reading anything through the week.
I was a Christian, I did church!
But now it just isn’t the same.
I don’t have that natural gap in the day anymore, no walk or car ride, or space to prepare myself to meet with God or to develop that expectancy. Before, when I maybe rushed into the meeting at the last minute, or even if I actually arrived late, mostly I could stop, get off the treadmill of life a little and turn my mind to the things of God.
Now there is no meeting to go to. Just a screen to turn on and watch. There is not even much to see on the screen either. Just lots of those ZOOM rectangles with each person in their own home watching.
Watching each other mostly – although more often others will have seen a black box with my name on it. Maybe, if I had enough technical know-how, I could have set it up so they would be watching a photo of a smiling me instead. Would that be any better? Probably not.
If I don’t want to watch everyone of course I can log in and then just carry on listening while I work. It is easier than it used to be in many ways as I don’t even need to get dressed.
Easier maybe, but it still isn’t the same somehow. I can watch – but God doesn’t reach through the WIFI and draw me in.
I ask you – where is God in all that? He can’t possibly be on zoom.
And that brings me to reason number 2. There were times before when I used to go early to serve on coffee duty or other things. It made me feel part of the church family. It was something I could do to help and be needed.
Well now nothing needs doing does it? Everyone can get their own coffee – and they do.
As I look at all those ZOOM rectangles I can see the lovely variety of mugs – there are some nice ones have you noticed? I once saw one identical to my very own favourite mug that I love to use here at home.
Anyway I digress – there really is nothing for me to do any more is there? Matt does his thing of course and Sharon leads worship but I am sure there is nothing I can do to serve so I don’t even bother to offer or ask. Just turn on the screen and watch, a welcome alternative to the latest soap or reality TV. Once we are back in real church I can get involved again.
What’s next oh yes ….
Worship on ZOOM is a non starter don’t you think?
The sound was never quite right when Sharon led worship live. A blip in the connection and I would miss words or get distracted and it was really off-putting. The worship videos from Matt and Sharon recently have helped a bit, nice to listen to as I’ve been curled up on my sofa with a cuppa.
It is not the same as when we were at church though.
Do you know – back then I never watched whoever was leading worship but usually had my eyes closed and mind fixed on God. I engaged with him, my attention on him so that I was sometimes even oblivious to what was around me. Just pouring out, sometimes silently, my praise and worship to the great God who transcended my understanding. Standing, maybe hands uplifted in adoration of the one who did it all for me.
I don’t do that now; it feels silly to stand up like that in my sitting room and anyway I usually have a coffee cup in my hand and it really is not the same is it? Zoom just doesn’t work the same way .
Why is that I wonder?
Oh that in some way the Holy Spirit would transmit himself down the wifi and reach out to me as I sit looking at those rectangles. Until we meet again I will have to make do with just remembering longingly all that used to be.
Do you know there is something else about looking back too – I reckon I know more about the lives of some people now than I ever did before. Those difficult times before a meeting when comments get exchanged. You know when someone asks a question and we all hear the answer cos ZOOM is like that. It doesn’t respect people’s privacy.
It doesn’t make any difference to the here and now though. There is not much I can do with that extra information. I suppose I could message someone? With the WhatsApp group we have all got everyone’s numbers and it would be easy to send someone a private message. That would be a bit awkward though when I haven’t really spoken to them very much before. What would they think? It is probably too difficult to begin now.
If Sunday morning was how it used to be there could be opportunity to say something to them, or if it didn’t happen one week I could hope it would be easier the week after.
Oh well, nothing I can do about it. It is not as if they will be expecting anything from me as they haven’t had it before.
Mmmm tell you what though – if it was how it used to be maybe I would never have heard about that problem anyway, I wouldn’t have even known what to pray for.
Talking about praying . . .
Prayer meetings are not the same as before either. These days I watch others praying, again in those horrible ZOOM rectangles on the screen and it is much more difficult to hear what they are saying. One thing I have noticed though, just watching people praying is probably worse than watching paint dry. It makes me not that eager to go to prayer meetings any more. Maybe it would be best to wait until we are back to normal and I can start joining in again.
I take another sip of my tea and realise I didn’t used to get to do that as easily in a prayer meeting. I couldn’t be wondering off or answering that text message that just came in on the phone either. Nowadays it doesn’t seem to matter if I do or not, but then it was different somehow – I felt more connected.
I began with 5 reasons God is not on zoom but as I have pondered these things I found another one.
If I don’t “feel him”,
If I think it is “not the same”,
If I can’t “connect properly”,
If “technology” is the mountain that is in my way right now, stopping me leaning on others for my weekly spiritual fix –
then what is the problem?
Maybe, just maybe, I don’t find God on ZOOM because I am not taking on the responsibility to bring God with me when I come and share that rectangle on the screen that represents “me” in our zoom gatherings.
You see when Moses came down from Mount Sinai his face was shining – a physical sign that he had been in the presence of God. It was so visible he wore a veil to cover his face. But get this – behind that veil Moses, in his heart, knew he had met with God. He knew God was there, he didn’t say God wasn’t in the desert – it was all the other Israelites that didn’t get it.
So where am I going with all this?
What if – I took even a few moments to prepare myself for our meeting together and came consciously expecting Him, and asking Him to be, not on ZOOM, but WITH ME right here in my home?
What if – I didn’t stay sitting on my sofa with cuppa in hand as if I was watching the latest offering on Netflix, but instead put down the cuppa, stood up and got ready to engage with the God of the universe?
What if – I stopped looking at those rectangles of people and shut my eyes and turned my inward eye on God who loved me so much he died that I may have life abundantly – lockdown or not?
What if – I stopped getting sidetracked and believing that it “isn’t the same on ZOOM” and instead expected to meet with Him as we spend time together? The bible is after all on my side because he has promised to never leave me or forsake me
What if – instead of watching the prayers of others ascend to heaven I kept my mike turned off but began to pray myself, praise, worship, requests, anything? Just doing more than having thoughts in my head that I don’t get as far as expressing verbally to him who said “ask”
What if, I didn’t think about it “not being the same on ZOOM” because I was bringing God with me and, whatever anyone else was doing, I was going to worship him with abandon?
You see maybe I don’t need the Holy Spirit to reach down the WIFI out of ZOOM and touch me. I just need to ask Him, and as always He will come in, and fill me afresh.
My imagination is taking over now
Maybe, just like it was with Moses, we could somehow SEE his glory in each other, shining out on our faces through those rectangles and I could know, more than I have known it before, that he is here with me, and He is there with you, even as we gather together on ZOOM.
What if I stop using ZOOM as an excuse and I remove the plank from my eye and do whatever it takes to bring God with me when I come to meet?
What if I am standing and worshipping when he asks “who can I send on this new journey into this virus ridden world?”
I won’t need to say “once these restrictions are lifted”.
I won’t need to say “when I can meet with others again”
I will instead see the world through His eyes and there will be no hesitation,
- whatever I will need to do,
- whatever wall I will need to scale,
- whatever mountain I will need to cast into the sea
I will be able to say with all my heart “Lord, Send me!”