If you're much of an Internet user, you've probably become acquainted with what are called social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter. These websites try to help people stay in touch with one another, help them make new friends and discover new business contacts. They use terms like "communities," "friends," and "groups," to create a feeling of togetherness.

I'm admittedly a fan of such sites. I love being able to find old classmates or keep in touch with distant relatives. I like the opportunities these sites give me to maintain contact with people without having to become too involved. I can quickly say "hi" and go on with other things.

Therein lies the problem of course. However pleasant these quick exchanges with others may be, they are almost certain to be shallow and often somewhat insincere. My wife asked me the other day about someone, and I replied that I didn't know them. She said, "But you're friends with them on Facebook!" That was a good reminder of the difference between Internet relationships and real relationships. Internet relationships can exist between strangers who share a common interest, but have no desire to truly get to know one another.

Because of that, I cringed a bit the other day when reading about "online churches" that allow people to "go to church" in the comfort of their own homes. Just as social networking sites are a pale imitation of face-to-face relationships, so these online churches cannot be compared to actual interaction with other believers. We need to pray, hear sermons, etc., but we also need the community that is the church. As the apostle John wrote, "For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20). We can't really have a relationship with God if we don't have a relationship with other people.

Connected doesn't mean community
If you aren't part of a community of believers, I want to help connect you with one. If you haven't yet given your life to God, that will be the place you need to start. If you are already a Christian but don't have a church home, I'd be happy to try and help you find other Christians to meet with. Just write to me at tarcher@heraldoftruth.org or visit HopeforLife.org and leave a comment on our blog.

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