An article about the need for Christian fellowship argues that God meets us face to face: have you seen the face of God?
Can Christians experience true Christian fellowship on social media rather than attending small groups? A recent article on Relevant Magazine argues they can’t.
The article makes a few interesting points and dredges up the tired old “where two or more are gathered in My name” argument that is, as always, taken completely out of context to imply that God can’t possibly see anyone when they’re alone.
But then it makes this interesting point:
Sometimes the face-to-face is where we would rather not go. It is one place where we are acutely aware of our imperfections and our faults. It is where we are vulnerable, where the way we see and think about the world can suddenly be put to the test; but that is where God meets us.
God is in the face-to-face.
I don’t see it that way. At all.
In fact, the majority of times I’ve truly experienced God’s presence is when I’ve been alone, not in some small group, and unfortunately, rarely inside a church. It’s when I’ve been having quiet time, or praying, or reading a text about the Bible.
Those occasions are where I most often feel God’s presence.
It’s not “face to face.” It’s “one on one.”
The article goes on to claim that without face-to-face encounters typical of Christian fellowship, “we become less human and more robotic. And we may miss an encounter with God.”
Who’s to say we might not miss an encounter with God if we’d spent more time praying alone or reading the Bible or journaling or doing some other solitary activity related to experiencing God?
I’m not arguing against face-to-face fellowship.
I think it has an important place if you can find a Christian community that is willing to do what Jesus was willing to do: to meet people where they were.
If you can build relationships with people who will look out for you and want to spend time with you, that can definitely be a powerful thing to have in your faith arsenal. It’s always important to have a support network you can turn to when you need it.
I certainly wouldn’t deny that.
However, I’ve never seen God “face to face”  at such a group. What does the face of God look like? Ask everyone in any Christian fellowship group to describe it and I bet you’ll have a different answer from each of them. Sure, they may have some characteristics in common, and I imagine most will describe what could be summed up as a kind  “grandfatherly”  figure.
There might be a handful of people in a group who might suggest, or perhaps even insist that God might be a she instead of a he.
In Exodus 33:20, we’re told no one can see God’s face and live. But since Jesus Christ is also God, people looked upon Jesus’s face during His ministry. You have to decide for yourself the definition of “God” as used in Exodus and as separate from Jesus despite the concept of God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost as one.
Still, the notion that you cannot “see” God, or “experience” God’s presence outside of Christian fellowship or outside of “two or more gathered in His name,”  to me, is absurd.
It may be an easy claim to make for the more extroverted among us, and possibly even easy for those who just want to see their church’s small groups have a surge in attendance. But not everyone is the extroverted type. Not all of us are quick to sign up for any Christian activity where there’ll surely be a big crowd of people.
Some of us experience anxiety that grows as each additional person walks into the room.
I cannot and will not believe that condition makes introverts less deserving of a one-on-one encounter with God. And I certainly will not agree that such an encounter by a person who is alone is impossible.