Zooming into the Future
I attended my first Zoom meeting the third week of May. The following week, I participated in a second.
That may not be cause for crowing since such sessions have become so common lately for millions.
Yet, considering how rapidly Zoom hatched in my consciousness, it still makes my head spin. In my case, I went from zero awareness of the video conferencing tool to user seemingly overnight.
From Zero to Zoom User
The reason that is notable is my considerable lack of technological expertise. Despite that drawback, here I am online, chatting with people around our area and beyond.
It’s the kind of stuff that in my childhood only existed in the minds of science fiction writers.
Folks who grew up with smartphones treat this as no big deal, but for those of us who didn’t it is truly mind-boggling.
My education began in late March when a member of a small men’s group I attend emailed everyone to mention Zoom.
He said this app might enable our Wednesday morning meetings to continue while their building was closed.
I asked if I could download it on my laptop. He wrote back to say he wasn’t sure, but that I was the only one who had responded. So, he didn’t know if the high-tech meetings would take place.
They never materialized, but in the next few weeks it seemed everyone was talking about Zoom.
I learned about my college roommate using the platform for Friday afternoon social meetings with a group of fellow vacation cottage owners. It didn’t look like they were going to spend much actual time together this summer.
Then, financial talk show host Clark Howard mentioned the service on his radio program.
I also started seeing news stories popping up about security problems, with hackers interrupting meetings, posting rude messages or porn, or hijacking laptops.
Such issues had prompted the New York school board to ban Zoom’s use in early April, although they relented about five weeks later.
Church that Adapt
Then came the coup de grace: a quarterly leadership publication I write for asked me to interview a pastor in Atlanta whose network of churches went on Zoom when the lockdown started.
In addition to worship services, pastors of local campuses are using the technological tool for small group Bible studies and one-on-one accountability sessions.
“Attendees” come from around the Atlanta area and other states. In one case, nations: a family with two parents in Africa and children on three continents have been able to “see” each other every Sunday.
Among the other faces are people who have never been to an actual worship services at the main campus.
Eager to see Zoom services continue, these newcomers have asked the pastor what’s going to happen when restrictions on in-person services are lifted.
“They’ve been saying, ‘We don’t want to stop this,’” he told me.
Ironically, the evening I turned in that story, I downloaded Zoom.
Then, fortunately for me, I did a test call the next morning with a friend. That’s when I discovered I needed to change my microphone and sound settings so I didn’t end up with a (truly) virtually silent experience.
The first meeting I attended went well. It was great to see familiar faces for the first time in three months. I’m not sure if it’s because everyone was at home, but attendees (including me) seemed quite relaxed.
While Zoom can’t duplicate the feel of an in-person meeting, wise church leaders will imitate that pastor in Atlanta. Responding to the Great Commission means using every means possible to do so.