Three things to remember when you’re digitally worn out

I saw this tweet yesterday and I fully sympathise

Between live streaming services, Zoom calls Community Groups, WhatsApp video calls, recording podcasts online, continuing to blog, creating video content for Facebook and church website and all the various other means of non-face-to-face communications to keep up with church members, I get it. I am weary. It is tiresome.

The latest lock down news has upped our ability to meet in groups to 6. But that is socially distanced 6. And when you’re a family of 4 or more, that ends up being particularly limiting. It’s better than not seeing people at all, but it isn’t going to be back to normal. For good or ill, we’ll be ploughing on with all the digital malarkey for a while.

So, what are we to say to those of us who are digitally worn out? Here are three things worth telling yourself.

It’s doing people good

This is ultimately why we do what we do, right? We want to love, support, help and shepherd our people as best we can. And that’s why, despite how tiring and wearing it all is, we should press on. It is doing your people good. They are able to access Bible teaching from a pastor that knows them and can apply the Word particularly to them. They are able to engage, albeit from a distance and online, with familiar faces. They are able to hear the prayers of God’s people for them and get counsel as it is needed. We might feel spent, we might feel drained, but it is genuinely doing our people good.

On top of all that, it has reach that does others good too. We have found a far wider proportion of people tuning into our live stream than we would normally reach on our usual Sunday morning. Whilst numbers isn’t our priority – and so it remains less good than meeting in person for a host of reasons – people who wouldn’t hear the gospel or open the Word are doing so. If you are making other content at this time, as we are, that has got a wide reach as well. We are interacting with a wider audience and they are engaging with the gospel, actually and meaningfully though they wouldn’t have before. It is tiring, but it is doing good.

It seems better than the alternative

When we look at our available options, all the online digital stuff seems preferable to doing nothing at all. We aren’t actually meeting online, but what we are able to do is better than not doing anything at all. We are, to all intents and purposes, faced with a pretty stark choice: either take stuff online or do nothing. Most of us (though, see below) have decided that it is better to do something – however tiring, difficult and sub-optimal it may be – rather than leave our people to fend for themselves.

You don’t have to

For the reasons I have mentioned above, I think it is wise and prudent to take what we can online. I would rather teach our folks over live stream than leave them without any applied bible teaching for 3 or 4 months. I would rather Zoom community groups as best as we are able rather than leave people to it on their own. None of it is ideal, it is a wisdom call, but I think it is better.

But it being a wisdom call means that you don’t have to do it all. There is no scriptural mandate to take everything online if you can’t meet physically. If it’s killing you, or you don’t reckon it’s doing as much good as all that, then don’t. There seem to be a fair few places that have taken just that decision. Some because they don’t have the means, others because they don’t feel the need, others again because they have decided on various grounds it is preferable not to do. And all that is OK. Whatever I, and others, might think is best – like a whole load of things in the Christian life that others seem to insist upon – scripture doesn’t mandate what to do here. You are free to make a call on it, you are free not to take everything online, and the Lord doesn’t (I don’t think) hold that against you because he hasn’t told any of us that we ought to do it (not least because most of his people pre-2010 couldn’t have done it!)

Like most people, I am digitally worn out too. But I want to press on because I think it is doing our people good, it has got good gospel reach beyond our folks and it seems better to me than the alternative. But remember also, we are free not to do all that. If we are making the decision before the Lord, and seeking to honour him by it, he certainly hasn’t said you must do all this online stuff. It might be good, it might be wise, it might be best, but what it isn’t is mandated by scripture. That makes it OK to opt out if you feel the need.