Perhaps one of the greatest paradoxes of the Internet is how it allows people to connect with each other and yet also isolates them. One can have thousands of friends on Facebook without meeting most of them, maintaining superficial relationships. One can follow famous people on Twitter and feel a sense of connection that does not exist in reality. Many churches offer some form of “e-church” experience which allows one to seem to participate along with a group of Christians while remaining in the confines of their own home.
Nevertheless, virtual relationships remain just that: virtual. Humans, as created in God’s image, are designed to be around each other and to share in actual, substantive community (Genesis 1:26-27, Romans 1:19-21). The church, as the body of Christ, represents the environment in which Christians jointly participate in their shared faith (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-28). The Gospel is not about perpetuating alienation and isolation but instead the reconciliation of all men with God and with each other in Christ (John 17:20-23, Romans 5:6-11). This is why it is good to remember that all Gospel promotion on the Internet should not be to its own end. Virtual Gospel promotion must ultimately point a person not only toward becoming a Christian but also toward real life participation with Christians and a congregation of the Lord’s people. Jesus did not set up a virtual church, but a real-life one.
To this end, Meetup represents a great opportunity and venue for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Meetup exists to help foster and strengthen community in real life: an “organizer” sets up a Meetup group which will feature events in which members can get together and share in a common cause, event, or project. Examples include informational meetings for clubs, planned hikes, and volunteering events. Yet there is no hindrance to having groups and events for spiritual purposes, since they are also designed to foster and strengthen community in real life.
A congregation or an individual could therefore organize a Meetup group in order to promote the Gospel. The group could be used to advertise a congregation’s existing Bible study and assembly times; it could also be used to promote a group Bible study designed for members of the community.
Meetup therefore provides the opportunity to direct people in the community toward participation with Christians in Bible studies and assemblies. People do search Meetup for Bible studies and assemblies and prove willing to visit. Meetup is free to join but costs about $150 a year ($12/month) to host a group.
People today are acutely aware of the isolating tendencies of modern life and hunger and thirst for reconciliation with God and jointly participate with their fellow humans. The Gospel is designed to meet this need (Romans 1:16-18, 5:6-11), and we do well to promote it in ways that lead to greater association among people in Christ. Meetup can be one way by which to do so. Let us continue to promote the Gospel within the community in order to build up the body of Christ!