I have not always been a fan of memes.
Actually, I still find that I am more often annoyed than amused by memes. For those who aren’t 100% sure what a “meme” is, according to Merriam-Webster, a meme is “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online, especially through social media.”
All of those pictures with famous quotes overlaid, all of those videos of cats dancing with a tagline in the foreground, all of those Bible verses in front of floral arrangements, those are all memes.
And much of the time, I believe them to take the Bible out of context, attribute famous quotes to people who did not say them and honestly, there is nothing about a cat dancing that I find amusing. I realize that makes me a heartless monster, but I’ve just never been a fan.
Here recently, however, I have found myself resonating more and more with the message in many memes. Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about a meme I found on Facebook. It was a white backdrop with black letters that said, “We are five months into 2020 and it’s still January.” That particular meme has aged well, as did the blog post.
More recently, with the unprecedented quarantine, I am particularly fond of the plethora of church-related memes that continue to come out addressing the difficulties we are facing.
One of the most obvious impacts this period of social distancing has had upon the church is the state of Sunday mornings. There have been times when I felt as if I was looking out over an empty sanctuary, but now, that is almost the literal state of things.
For the past two Sunday mornings, we have been running on a skeleton crew. As I look out into over those gathered, there are a grand total of four people present, and all of them are either pastors or senior members of church leadership. Further, all of them are looking at phones, computers or monitors to make sure our live feed is streaming like it should or to interact with our audience at home.
I saw a meme last week where a church took cardboard cutouts and puppets and placed them around the room with accompanying signs of affirmation. I thought for a brief moment about raiding our preschool room to borrow their puppets to recreate that meme, but as I pictured it in my mind, it seemed more creepy than cool.
And it would have been super discouraging to see a puppet walk out when it didn’t like something we did or said. All joking aside, it is very different and somewhat difficult preaching to cameras in an empty room.
As I consider our new reality, I can’t help but see the silver lining. My good friend, Kent Waggoner, a retired Air Force colonel, sent me a meme the other night that said, “The church isn’t empty; the church has been deployed!”
Our buildings may sit empty, but the body is more active than ever. In a matter of weeks, churches the world over have made quantum leaps in their ability to utilize technology in innovative ways to serve their communities and share the good news of Jesus with the world.
Since people could no longer go to church, we’ve made every effort to take the church to the people. Churches have begun reaching out to sister churches, offering resources and sharing knowledge in order to keep things moving. Food and supplies are being collected and distributed as area churches partner together to meet the needs of the hungry and hurting in our community.
It appears to me that what the coronavirus has done is awaken a sleeping giant. It may have separated our weekly gatherings, but it has brought the broader family of faith together and has engaged the army of God’s people in a way that has not been seen in my lifetime.
I see similarities between the actions of the church today and those of the church in Acts 8. Difficulty, it would seem, doesn’t debilitate the people of God. Rather, it drives us out into the world to be the church. As another meme says, “The church has left the building!” That’s a sentiment worth sharing.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected].