Using Technology Wisely

A new word has come to be: “phubbing.” It is similar to “snubbing,” or ignoring others, but means to ignore others while talking or texting on one’s phone! We’ve all observed this. One study found the average adult sends or receives about 40 messages daily by e-mail or text, and young adults, 18-24, send or receive about 110. Cellphones have revolutionized our world but bring some new challenges too.

I was at a funeral several months ago when a lady’s phone went off twice. I could somewhat understand one misfire, but two was inexcusable in a service designed to provide comfort for a grieving family.

A community college colleague told about two students in the back of her classroom constantly texting. The policy at this school is that phones must be put away during class, which she ignored for a while. But their texting became so disruptive she walked over to confront them. They sheepishly admitted they were texting one another—sitting next to each other—about their weekend plans. Here were students paying $3600 in tuition to learn and to prepare for jobs in the marketplace, but texting trivia was more important. They, or their parents, were wasting money.

Phubbing has even invaded our churches.

Finding something to do other than paying attention in church isn’t new. An old satire magazine published an article called, “101 Fun Things to Do During A Dull Sermon.” The one I remember is counting the number of choir members who wear glasses! The point is we can all play mind games and tune out what’s happening around us. Again, nothing new here.

But now we have a new venue. We can use our phones in church and transport ourselves into another world, not necessarily a spiritual one.

Many find having access to 30 Bible translations on their phones a handy thing and bring phones to church these days rather than their Bibles. At a recent presentation in our church three speakers brought iPads to the pulpit with their notes, with me being the only one with a typed page of notes.

Nevertheless, electronic devices present new challenges to the church.

One, there is the temptation to play instead of pray. Like the students texting in class, we squander valuable opportunity to commune with God and study the scripture.

And, two, there is influence. A colleague at the Christian college I taught in determined she would begin bringing her Bible to weekly chapel rather than her cellphone so students wouldn’t think she was texting or Internet surfing during worship. She was concerned about her influence, as every believer must be.

Technology can be “baptized” and used in our churches but must be used wisely.