Virtual Meetings versus Face-to-Face Meetings

By Mario Vega,

Cells through Zoom and other apps proved very helpful during the lockdown. It was better to have virtual meetings with their limitations than not to have any at all. But what were those limitations? Here are some limitations of virtuality: each participant was in a different environment. Some used a blurred background, some with a virtual background, some with poor lighting, some with pets, etc. It is difficult to build communion when each one is in a different environment than the others.

On the other hand, the grace of God flows from one person to another, which often happens through physical contact. Jesus touched the leper and healed him. He applied saliva to the eyes of a blind man so that he could see. He touched a girl to resurrect her. The bleeding woman touched the hem of Christ’s garment and received healing. Paul hugged Eutychus to revive him from his fall. The disciples ate together every day. The Scriptures also speak of breaking bread, anointing with oil, and the laying on of hands. Jesus ate from the same plate with his disciples, and John leaned on the Master’s chest.

There is a spiritual dimension that can only be reached through person-to-person interaction. It is those elements that cannot be accomplished via Zoom. As soon as possible, virtual meetings must return to face-to-face meetings so God’s grace may flow without limitations.

Korean blog (click here)

Portuguese Blog

Reuniões Virtuais ou Reuniões Presenciais

Mario Vega,

Durante o período de lockdown, as reuniões feitas pelo Zoom e outros aplicativos mostraram-se muito úteis. Era melhor fazer as reuniões desta maneira, mesmo com suas limitações, do que não fazer. E quais eram estas limitações? Cada participante estava em um ambiente diferente. Alguns utilizavam um fundo de tela desfocado, outros utilizavam um fundo de tela virtual, alguns não tinham iluminação suficiente, e outros ficavam com seus animais de estimações nas reuniões. É difícil construir a comunhão quando cada um dos participantes está em um ambiente diferente.

Além disso, a Graça de Deus flui de uma pessoa para a outra, e isso frequentemente acontece através do contato físico. Jesus tocou o leproso para que ele fosse curado. Ele também aplicou a sua própria saliva nos olhos de um cego para que ele voltasse a ver. Jesus tocou em uma garota e ela ressuscitou. A mulher do fluxo de sangue tocou na orla das vestes de Jesus para ser curada. Paulo abraçou Eutico para trazê-lo de volta à vida depois de uma queda. Os discípulos comiam juntos todos os dias. A Bíblia também fala do partir do pão, da unção com óleo e da imposição das mãos. Jesus comeu no mesmo prato que seus discípulos e João se recostou no peito do Senhor.

Há uma dimensão espiritual que só pode ser alcançada na interação presencial. Estas são as coisas que não podem ser obtidas pelo Zoom. As reuniões devem voltar presencialmente o mais breve possível, para que a Graça de Deus flua sem limitações.

Spanish blog:

Reuniones virtuales versus reuniones presenciales
Por Mario Vega,

Las células por medio de Zoom y otras aplicaciones, resultaron ser de mucha ayuda durante el confinamiento. Era mejor tener reuniones virtuales con sus limitaciones que no tener ninguna. Pero ¿cuáles eran esas limitaciones? Las limitaciones de la virtualidad: cada participante se encontraba en un ambiente diferente. Algunos utilizando un fondo con desenfoque, otros con un fondo virtual, otros con una iluminación inadecuada, otros con mascotas, etc. Es difícil construir comunión cuando cada uno está en un entorno diferente al de los demás.

Por otra parte, la gracia de Dios fluye de una persona a otra y eso sucede con frecuencia por medio del contacto físico. Jesús tocó al leproso para que fuera sanado, también aplicó saliva a los ojos de un ciego para que viera, tocó a una niña para resucitarla. La mujer con hemorragia tocó el borde del manto de Jesús para ser sanada. Pablo abrazó a Eutico para reanimarlo de su caída. Los discípulos comían juntos cada día. Las Escrituras también hablan de partir el pan, de ungir con aceite, de imponer manos. Jesús comía del mismo plato con sus discípulos y Juan se recostaba en el pecho del Maestro.

Hay una dimensión espiritual que solo se alcanza por medio de la interacción de persona a persona. Son esos elementos los que no pueden alcanzarse por medio de Zoom. En cuanto sea posible, las reuniones virtuales deben volver a ser presenciales para que la gracia de Dios fluya sin limitaciones.

5 thoughts on “Virtual Meetings versus Face-to-Face Meetings

  • In terms of distance, “local” has always been presumed best, and while there is no argument here, I will argue our theology of “local” needs to be challenged and considered beyond the scope of historic conception. I submit that our connection with someone else is more a function of “presence of mind” than “presence of body.”

    The authors of the Synoptics each recount stories of Jesus healing a woman with a bleeding problem (Mt 9:20-22; Mk 5:25-34; Lk 8:43-48). The woman touched Jesus’ robe, implying that there was no actual bodily contact. His robe, of course, wasn’t the source of Jesus’ healing work, meaning healing happened despite some measurable distance.

    Further, it’s likely that those healed by Jesus’ power through Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15) were even less proximate than the woman was to Jesus. This is even moreso in the instance of Jesus healing the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:5-13; Lk 7:1-10). While inexhaustive, these examples imply a relationship between the location of personal presence of the Holy Spirit (which, co-equal with one’s soul, would be proximate to the actual cells of a person’s body) and the effect of that presence, but this appears to diffuse the argument that “able to touch” is the only valid proximity.

    Finally, Jesus healed at a distance. And don’t we pray for those we’re not with (and expect that such bears the full power of the Spirit)?

    What does “local” mean? This doesn’t tell us exactly, but it’s likely beyond our historic conception of “in the same building,” “able to touch” or similar definition of proximity.

    Can you hand someone a meal or literally lay hands on them via Zoom? Obviously not, and even Paul more than once intoned his desire to be in person rather than writing a letter. But to claim Zoom (or any other medium of connection) is impossible or irrelevant is in need of amendment, IMHO.

      • Thanks, Joel. No, didn’t get cut off. I was perhaps too hurried and didn’t express clearly, but the last sentence is the conclusion.

        • gotacha. Not sure what I was seeing. Anyway, I’ll look forward to reading your words and replying tomorrow morning. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Roger, for taking this discussion seriously and be willing to dialogue over it. You made some good points about touch, healing, and God’s Spirit moving apart from physicality. And of course, the discipline of prayer is something that happens almost entirely in the spiritual realm apart from physical touch. So I think the bloggers about Zoom versus face-to-face are trying to say that face-to-face is preferred and should be the norm with the exception being those who need to log-in or zoom into the meeting. What we’re trying to say that one is better than the other and that they are not on an equal level. I’m passionate about preserving the quality and definition of the cell in the cell church. In my experience, North Americans have been overly eager to redefine the cell as being anything small and a group and in doing so have watered down the power of small group ministry. I fear the same thing happening by placing zoom cells on equal footing as face-to-face groups. And of course, the same could be said of the celebration service. Is watching a service on TV the same as being present? I don’t think so.

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