The medium and the message
October 30, 2020
In the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he wrote, “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face.” Naturally, Paul would have preferred to see those to whom he is writing face to face. His purpose, in such a personal meeting, would have certainly been to communicate his message about Christ to them. But because his circumstances evidently made face to face contact impossible, he instead communicated his message to them by means of a letter. For Paul, the message was the most important thing, the only thing truly essential. The letter was only a convenient medium through which his message was transmitted when personal contact was impossible.
It would be many years before the new technology of the printing press made it possible for Paul’s message of Christ to be communicated in a different way and to a much wider audience, including us, living two thousand years later. Nevertheless, the message remains the only thing that is important. The printed word is only a medium through which the message is conveyed.
The Internet is only the latest technological means by which the message of Christ can be conveyed. It is a medium, no different than Paul’s handwritten letters, or the printed words of the Bible. With modern technology, however, much more than the printed word can be communicated. Entire church services can be conducted through the medium of the Internet. During a time of crisis, like the current pandemic, when personal contact is unnecessarily risky, it is perfectly reasonable for church services to be held online, making use of this medium to convey the message of Christ.
Naturally, like Paul, everyone would prefer to meet face to face, but when that proves to be impossible or inadvisable, it is important to remember that the only essential thing is the message. No one should ever feel guilty about accessing church services online as a temporary substitute for physical church attendance. The physical church service itself might be regarded as merely a medium through which the message of Christ is conveyed. In fact, when church services are held in large venues, it is not uncommon for large television screens to be utilized in order for everyone to see and hear the service. If you’re watching a church service on a television screen, it really doesn’t make much difference whether you’re sitting in a large arena or in your own home.
We should always keep in mind that the medium and the message are not the same. The message is always more important than the medium. And your health and safety are more important than your church attendance.