Everywhere and Nowhere
The digital age is our friend, not our foe.
“The new center of mission is everywhere and nowhere.” – Richard Bauckham
Yesterday, I opened my Google Suite (G-Mail, Calendar, Drive) like I do every day. Except yesterday, my Google Drive was empty. A glitch in the software had hidden all of my documents.
All. My. Documents.
I say “hidden” and not “erased” because nothing is ever really erased on the cloud. It’s all 1s and 0s, and Google could recover anything I ever “lost.” My office exists not on my computer, my phone or my tablet. My computer, my phone and my tablet allow me to access my office, but it is not any one of those things. Thus, I did not panic, but I waited to the software to get patched and all my documents appeared again. I never even needed to contact the help desk.
The digital age is changing things.
I don’t own music anymore, I subscribe to Google Play (Google plays a big part in my life) and access whatever I want. While there is a mild trend toward owning vinyl, it is little more than a goldfish swimming against a rushing river. The last movie I purchased was Jurassic World (2015), and I love movies. But On Demand means never having to own a movie. The last book I purchased? Digital, stored on Nook for access wherever I want. My music, my movies, my books are everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
CLC is everywhere and nowhere too.
Sure, there is a mailbox and there are folks who work out of offices, coffee shops and other places. But CLC also exists as a code number to a Zoom video conference line. It’s everywhere. It’s nowhere. There are people who embody the work of CLC. And they are all over the place. Participants in the various courses gather simultaneously in their own homes and with people across the United States. All of this is in real-time, with Dropbox holding the assignments everywhere… and nowhere.
The Church is part of a similar shift, and has actually been part of this shift since before the digital age.
In the Old Testament, people gathered at Tabernacle and Temple. God’s presence moved out from those buildings, and people streamed to those buildings (Isaiah 2:1-5). In the New Testament Gospels, Jesus took the place of that Temple (John 1:51). Post-Pentecost, there is no center. The center is everywhere… and nowhere (1 Corinthians 6:19). This does not diminish the importance of being together in person for worship and discipleship- it enhances it! We are the Church wherever we are, including a church building, a home or a coffee shop or pub.
We are also the Church without a Tabernacle.
We have holy places, to be sure, and yet they are different than the Old Testament. God is not sitting on a box in the Holy of Holies. Jesus declares that the presence of God is within us and even among us, filling the synapses and spaces between you and I (Luke 17:21). We are all in a context that shapes our understanding of the world, and Christ speaks in the midst of all of those contexts. It is a truly beautiful concept that technology is only illuminating for us now.
It is an amazing moment for the Church.
As cultures interact, social media amplifies voices that have been silenced for too long, and the internet gives us access to resources formerly reserved for a few, the opportunities are legion. Hopefully, the first opportunity seized is an opportunity to humble ourselves and learn. As we learn from folks we would not normally meet, we can begin to see our hidden prejudices and assumptions which cloud our thinking and our ministries. Those idols can be dismantled and we can keep moving forward on a journey toward faithfulness, hope and love.
The digital age can be our friend, and there is something to learn from being everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
I invite you to join me on this learning journey from everywhere to everywhere.