I just finished Tim Challies’ book The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion (Zondervan, 2011). It was definitely a helpful read, urging me to gain more “technological discernment” (p.25). The question one asks when reading this book is a simple one: “Am I controlling my technology or is my technology controlling me?” Uncle Paul and Aunt Vonnie just returned from a week’s stay in a cabin. Athough the cabin was quite nice, it lacked something most of us have taken for granted–internet access! They could not check their email. Surfing the web was out of the question. Can you imagine?! Challies describes a self-imposed “digital fast” he embarked upon several years ago. Talk about discipline (I’d label it “torture!”) It’s hard enough for me to stay away from my email inbox for two hours! The experience was a reminder to Tim of just how dependent he was on technology and the technological devices in his possession.
Chapter five in the book is entitled: Life in the Real World (Mediation/Identity). In one section, Tim discusses the odd phenomenon of “cyberchurch” (p.105-106). In the following section, entitled “Christian Love,” he writes the following (p.106):
The book of Acts describes the earliest days of the church as being beautiful in fellowship and in simplicity. It was a community of Christians who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.” The believers were close to one another and were exceedingly generous, “selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” These words are not merely descriptive, but also prescriptive, giving us a picture of how God wants His church to function. It is because of this fellowship and community, not apart from it, that we read “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47). God richly blessed them, glorifying Himself through their faithfulness and love.
What is clear from Acts is that the church was a community of people who lived in close fellowship with one another. They were a community built on a shared love for God and for one another. This mutual love was expressed as they opened their homes to others and shared what they had.
I like that! Few Christian fellowships remind me of such radical theology in practice. The believers shared life. Following God’s example, they “so loved” one another that they actually shared their stuff! Their grip on their possessions was best described as “loose.” How often have you seen that practiced in the materialistic Christian subculture of the United States of America? Thought so. We are quick to say “Go in peace, be warm and filled” (Js. 2:16) and slow to offer “Please come over; how can we help you?” [Tim’s point in this section is: No technology can replace the face-to-face relational-ministry we find practiced in the early church.] Indeed.
The final sentence in Challies’ book is, “We can live in a God-honoring way in the next story, and in the story after that as well” (p.196). I agree. If technology (computers, internet, texting, etc.) plays as important of a role in your life as it does mine, I would strongly recommend this book!