Make It Specific

I’ve been hearing this sentence with increasing frequency, “What about the people who aren’t on the internet?” It’s a caring sentiment in a time of mandated isolation. As the rest of us are connecting through email, blogs, Facebook, YouTube, and live streaming, the questioner typically feels as though those without use of the internet are going without. They lack the spiritual nourishment church has now digitized.

This question has orbited in my head like one of those hands on museum displays where you put the coin in the giant funnel and watch it take multiple elliptical paths to the hole at the bottom. I’ve come up with a short answer, and a longer answer which I think is where the coin drops. The short answer is that we’re working on it. We had some things in place before the pandemic which continue. We’re working on making sure we know who those people are, and we will continue to be in touch with them.

The longer answer is to rephrase the question as specifically as possible. To whom is the questioner referring? It’s easy to talk about people in generalities. Who, exactly, is the questioner concerned about? Speaking in generalities lets us off the hook. Asking about Earl, or Sadie, someone you know personally, elicits more responsibility. A questioner might not be able to do anything about a group of people, but anyone can call one other person. Making a question more specific increases one’s power to act.

Does the questioner want to know if Harriet has access to the Sunday sermon? Call and ask. At the very least such a call decreases our isolation. Ask if someone uses the internet. Ask if they want to hear a sermon. Ask if they have a Bible, a devotional, or someone with whom to pray. Ask what other challenging times this reminds them of. Chances are pretty good that Harriet would rather hear someone’s 30-second summary of a sermon, if some genuine conversation was tacked on at the end, than the sermon itself. I don’t want to sell myself short as a preacher, but a phone call beats a sermon manuscript most every time.

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