the weblog of Alan Knox

E-gathering and E-couragement…

Posted by on Jul 22, 2007 in edification, gathering | 13 comments

A few days ago, in this comment to my post called “But I have perfect attendance…“, Jeff said:

I thank God you can exhort me and E-gather with me every day even though we are 2000 miles apart.

I appreciate the fact that my writing has exhorted Jeff and others. That is one of the reasons that I write.

Jeff’s comment inspired me to think about “e-gathering”. Is it fitting to consider an electronic medium (such as a blog) a gathering of believers? Is the encouragement that we receive from one another through electronic mediums the same as, or similar to, the encouragement that we receive from other believers when we meet face to face? (Please note that I am not saying that Jeff meant this in his comment. I am simply using his comment as an impetus to think further about these issues.)

The writers of the New Testament recognized that their correspondence (written letters) would have to take the place of face-to-face meetings. In some letters, the authors expected to see the recipients again soon and would continue their relationships face-to-face at that time. In other letters, the writers did not expect to see the recipients again. In some letters, the author already knew the recipients well and had spent a considerable amount of time with them face-to-face. In other letters, the author had never met the recipients face-to-face.

However, in all of these circumstances, it seems that the authors recognized that the words that they wrote were similar in importance to the words they would speak face-to-face. For example, while the author of Hebrews instructed his recipients to “exhort one another every day” (Heb 3:13), he also recognized his own letter as a “word of exhortation” (Heb 13:22). Thus, at least for the author of Hebrews, there was something comparable between the day-to-day and face-to-face communication between believers and his letter. In fact, it seems that in both cases, the result of the communication should be the exhortation of other believers.

Similarly, there are many ways that believers can communicate today even when they are not face-to-face. If I tried to name them all, then I would leave off a few, and the list would be obsolete in a few months because of the advances in personal communication. The type of communication is not important. What is important is that any communication between believers should have the purpose of exhorting one another – that is, encouraging one another toward maturity in Jesus Christ. Thus, blogs and comments and emails, for example, are valid types of communication between believers, just as letters were valid (and still are valid) during the first century.

This does not mean that either letters or electronic communications are a substitute for face-to-face communication between believers. In fact, in many of the letters in the New Testament, the authors expressed their desire to communicate face-to-face instead of through letters. Some authors withheld some communications until they could see the recipients personally.

Similarly, while it is beneficial to communicate with other believers using different mediums in order to encourage one another, these communications do not replace meeting with other believers face-to-face. Remember the letter to the Hebrews. Although he recognized that his letter would be a source of exhortation to his recipients, he also recognized the necessity of day-by-day exhortation that would come through face-to-face meetings with other believers. Both are important.

I do not think that anyone commenting on this blog has suggested that this type of communication and exhortation should replace personal, face-to-face words of edification. I would encourage readers to continue to meet with other believers face-to-face whenever and wherever possible in order to edify one another. This does not negate the benefit of other types of communication as well, including blogs and comments.


13 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 7-23-2007

    Yes, blogging for me has been something I have been very blessed by, to my surprise. I started out my blog just for a place to jot down thoughts (I used computer because I type faster than I write, and I can’t read my own writing). But along the way, I’ve met some really great people and learned a lot of great stuff from all kinds of different perspectives. I’ve also learned a lot about myself. So I’d definitely hold to the idea that it can be a sort of “community”.

  2. 7-23-2007

    Alan-
    Well-stated post. I consider the bloggers with whom I interact an extension of my Christian community, and I’ve learned a great deal through our conversations. Some have even prayed with me about specific concerns. My box of understanding has been broadened because of the challenge of new viewpoints.
    That said, even the wonders of technology don’t quite meet the needs of personal physical fellowship, do they? A digital hug is not quite the same thing, nor is a tear shed over a keyboard. Not only that, but it’s pretty easy to hide behind a nickname and tell you just what I want you to hear. It’s harder to do that when I see you face-to-face throughout the week. Real accountability requires real people, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  3. 7-23-2007

    Alan-
    Well-stated post. I consider the bloggers with whom I interact an extension of my Christian community, and I’ve learned a great deal through our conversations. Some have even prayed with me about specific concerns. My box of understanding has been broadened because of the challenge of new viewpoints.
    That said, even the wonders of technology don’t quite meet the needs of personal physical fellowship, do they? A digital hug is not quite the same thing, nor is a tear shed over a keyboard. Not only that, but it’s pretty easy to hide behind a nickname and tell you just what I want you to hear. It’s harder to do that when I see you face-to-face throughout the week. Real accountability requires real people, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  4. 7-23-2007

    Alan-
    Well-stated post. I consider the bloggers with whom I interact an extension of my Christian community, and I’ve learned a great deal through our conversations. Some have even prayed with me about specific concerns. My box of understanding has been broadened because of the challenge of new viewpoints.
    That said, even the wonders of technology don’t quite meet the needs of personal physical fellowship, do they? A digital hug is not quite the same thing, nor is a tear shed over a keyboard. Not only that, but it’s pretty easy to hide behind a nickname and tell you just what I want you to hear. It’s harder to do that when I see you face-to-face throughout the week. Real accountability requires real people, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  5. 7-23-2007

    Alan-
    Well-stated post. I consider the bloggers with whom I interact an extension of my Christian community, and I’ve learned a great deal through our conversations. Some have even prayed with me about specific concerns. My box of understanding has been broadened because of the challenge of new viewpoints.
    That said, even the wonders of technology don’t quite meet the needs of personal physical fellowship, do they? A digital hug is not quite the same thing, nor is a tear shed over a keyboard. Not only that, but it’s pretty easy to hide behind a nickname and tell you just what I want you to hear. It’s harder to do that when I see you face-to-face throughout the week. Real accountability requires real people, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  6. 7-23-2007

    Alan-
    Well-stated post. I consider the bloggers with whom I interact an extension of my Christian community, and I’ve learned a great deal through our conversations. Some have even prayed with me about specific concerns. My box of understanding has been broadened because of the challenge of new viewpoints.
    That said, even the wonders of technology don’t quite meet the needs of personal physical fellowship, do they? A digital hug is not quite the same thing, nor is a tear shed over a keyboard. Not only that, but it’s pretty easy to hide behind a nickname and tell you just what I want you to hear. It’s harder to do that when I see you face-to-face throughout the week. Real accountability requires real people, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  7. 7-23-2007

    Alan-
    Well-stated post. I consider the bloggers with whom I interact an extension of my Christian community, and I’ve learned a great deal through our conversations. Some have even prayed with me about specific concerns. My box of understanding has been broadened because of the challenge of new viewpoints.
    That said, even the wonders of technology don’t quite meet the needs of personal physical fellowship, do they? A digital hug is not quite the same thing, nor is a tear shed over a keyboard. Not only that, but it’s pretty easy to hide behind a nickname and tell you just what I want you to hear. It’s harder to do that when I see you face-to-face throughout the week. Real accountability requires real people, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  8. 7-23-2007

    Alan-
    Well-stated post. I consider the bloggers with whom I interact an extension of my Christian community, and I’ve learned a great deal through our conversations. Some have even prayed with me about specific concerns. My box of understanding has been broadened because of the challenge of new viewpoints.
    That said, even the wonders of technology don’t quite meet the needs of personal physical fellowship, do they? A digital hug is not quite the same thing, nor is a tear shed over a keyboard. Not only that, but it’s pretty easy to hide behind a nickname and tell you just what I want you to hear. It’s harder to do that when I see you face-to-face throughout the week. Real accountability requires real people, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  9. 7-23-2007

    Jake and Kat,

    Thank you for your comments. I’ve learned from conversations here and on other blogs as well. I think we would all do well listening to opinions that differ from our own.

    -Alan

  10. 7-24-2007

    Allin,
    Thanks for being such a great brother and pastor to leah and I while we were in WF. We love you and your family and already miss you guys. Leah and I both feel like you and Frenchy will always be our pastors.

    Ed and Leah from SF

  11. 7-24-2007

    Ed,

    I appreciate that. I learned alot from you and Leah. I’ll make sure that Frenchy gets the message.

    -Alan

  12. 9-28-2012

    Dear Alan,
    Thank you for discussing this topic,which is on my mind and heart these days.I’m a believer who has known the Lord within a community of believers in a church.But unfortunately this group split many years ago,and I found I had to sustain my need for “a body of Christ” through resorting to Twitter,through which I found a “virtual”church.I pray everyday that God provides me with things to share,hoping they build others,and I do my best digging for things that build me up,in the hope that one day,this “church”would meet for the first time with the Lord in glory.I don’t regret this at all,but consider it my only God-given outlet for growth,and blessing.Thank you,and God bless :)

  13. 9-28-2012

    Nevine,

    I agree that there may be times when we find ourselves alone in our walk with Christ. In those times, long distances relationships (either online or through books/magazines/letters) may be all we have. I would encourage you to keep your eyes open for people who God would bring into your life in order that you may encourage each other “face-to-face.”

    -Alan