3 Tips for Using Smart Phones in Corporate Worship

First off you have to know that I’m perhaps the worst person in the world to write a blog post about smart-phone etiquette in church. Simply put, I’ve broken all the rules. I’m the pastor who heard a phone go off while he was speaking, eyeballed the crowd in a judgmental manner, only to realize that it was MY phone going off, and sheepishly reminded everyone to turn their phones to “off” or “silent”… I’m that guy! I was once caught using Instagram FROM the baptismal pool… ok, I was just kidding on that one, but you get the picture… I’m bad. On the other hand, I am a pastor and I care about people. I care about you.  I want you to experience and enjoy a real and meaningful relationship with God. That’s not just my job, it’s my calling. So while etiquette usually takes into account the feelings and perceptions of those around us the aim of this post is to help us think deeply about our use of, or abstinence from, smart phones in worship. Rather than listing out a series of “best practices” I thought it most practical to lay our some basic guidelines that keep loving God and loving our neighbor at the center of our thoughts on the issue.

3 tips for using Smart Phones in Corporate Worship

Phones are just tools and as tools they can either help us or hurt us, but it really depends on how we use them. To ban phones all together might be oversimplifying the issue and cause us to miss a few real blessings along the way, however to use them incessantly to record events or interact with others who are not in the room may cause us to miss everything entirely.

Be Fully Present. However you use your phone, when it comes to worship, be fully there. If you find that you are distracted by your phone turn it off, on silent, or leave it in the car. However, if the bible app helps you fully engage or if your pastor posts interactive notes on line or even if you take notes with an app that allows you to write notes and record audio to be played back later… use it. The key is how you use your phone. If it takes you to another place mentally, then leave it behind.

Be Respectful of Others. You’re not the only one there. If you choose to use the technology on your phone in a way that helps you be fully present, make sure your presence doesn’t become a distraction to others. If at all possible turn your phone to off or silent. Ask the people sitting beside you if they mind if you take notes on your smart phone or tablet. If someone tells you that they are distracted by your device or you notice the children in your section are peering over trying to see what you are doing, you will want to accommodate others and put up your device or move to a less kid friendly section. If you need to use your phone to call a friend who was supposed to meet you at the service, step out into the foyer or perhaps even outside so as not to be a distraction to others.

Don’t Judge How Other People Use Their Phone. It’s easy to judge others for how they use their phones. We tend to be harsher on others for their bad manners than we are on ourselves. The truth is we seldom have the whole story. Unless you know for a fact that someone is playing a game on their phone, assume they have a legitimate reason for having their phone out, such as taking notes, reading a bible app, looking up words they don’t understand, etc.. If you are distracted by someone’s use of a phone, either politely ask them to refrain from using it or to use it elsewhere, “Excuse me sir, I can’t hear the pastor while you are talking on your phone, can you take your call in the foyer or outside please?” (Wish I was kidding).  Or perhaps you could change sections. Obviously if it’s your kids who are using the phone in church you have a lot more leeway in sequestering phone use and dictating what is acceptable and what isn’t.

A few books that have helped my thinking on this issue are Emily Post’s Manners in a Digital World: Living Well Online and Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning which is a book geared towards educators but has significant crossover into the ministry world and of course The Bible which should be our ultimate guide when understanding how to approach God and encourage one another. I’m also greatly indebted to about a dozen folks who took time to comment on  Facebook post in which I asked the question “What about smartphone use at church? Can I check in on FB? Tweet? Use my Bible App? Etc. what’s acceptable and what’s not?” As I glanced back over this article I couldn’t help but notice how several of their comments had slipped into my own thought process on this issue and made their way into this post.

What did I miss? What are some of the apps or practices you use to help engage in the worship service? What are some of the biggest distractions and pitfalls with using smart phones in church? Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

You See My Update, but God Sees My Heart: Twittering Our Righteous and Unrighteous Deeds

Matthew 6:1  “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

I’m guessing that if Twitter were around back in the first century that the Pharisees would have been all set.  I mean who needs a trumpet to announce your giving when you can just update your twitter feed with a picture of you giving to the poor.  Twitter would have been the ultimate tool to shape public perception.  No good deed would go unnoticed.

And maybe that is what bothers me so much when I reach in my pocket to pull out my phone and I begin to type in my latest update.  More often than not I end up putting my phone back because I realize my desire to tweet isn’t always born out of a pure motive.  I want you to see all the good things I have done.  I want you to know that I disciple my kids, that I have gospel conversations with people in the community, that I exercise, that I’m losing weight, that I pray for our missionaries. Perhaps sometimes my motives aren’t bad, I truly have a passion to see people grow in Christ and part of that comes by seeing an example.  But to be honest, more often than not I just want your affirmation. 

Then there are times that I’m not searching for affirmation.  I just had a conversation with someone about something and we left a bit of a disagreement.  So I reach in my pocket and pull out my phone with thumbs ready to type in a quote, re-tweet an authority on the subject, or even lay out a blanket statement that 99% of the twitter world won’t recognize as a backhanded jab at the person with whom I had a disagreement.  Then I pat myself on the back for not blatantly telling someone off directly like a more immature person would do… No I’m sophisticated.  I publish my jabs covertly into the stream of public consciousness (I hope you noted the sarcasm there).

Then there are the times that I don’t use my twitter status in a passive-aggressive way.  I settle instead for plain old aggressive.  When I pull out my phone and with great passion start to type my angst.  Usually this comes out against a company or unnamed person (such as the driver who cut me off in traffic or passed by on the median during a traffic jam).  In a sense I feel like I’m justified in sharing this information with the world since I was the victim of a great injustice (sarcasm there as well).

Thankfully I stop before too much really gets out.  I have never been able to publish so much unfiltered content before and it has taken me a while to realize that not everything is worth publishing.  Here lately thought, I’ve been thinking about forming guidelines on how I use twitter, facebook, my blog etc.

So I came up with 3 basic guidelines for how I want to use the social media publishing platforms at my disposal. I drew them from 1 Timothy 1:5 where Paul charges Timothy to correct those who are in error.

1Timothy 1:5  The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

  1. A Pure Heart – Do I have an ulterior motive? Am I publishing this to get affirmation or to jab someone?
  2. A Clear Conscience – Am I about to call someone out on the very things I’m guilty of myself?
  3. A Sincere Faith – Am I trusting Christ in this moment?

I have a long way to go.  Hopefully when I publish content it will be to build you up in Christ, not to boast in myself or tear down others.  To be sure there is still room in there to weigh in on a debate or share an opinion, but hopefully it will be evident that my thoughts are tempered by love.

Psalm 19:14  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

I have too many books, so I’m giving some Away

I have too many books!  So I’ve come up with a creative way to give away some of my books, reward those of you who stop by here from time to time (or just today), and get some of my blog posts out there. So here is the deal:

1. Pick a favorite blog article from this blog (I’ve listed a few of mine below, but you can pick yours)

2. Share a link to that article via Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, etc.

3. Let my know which post you shared and how by commenting on that post or this one. (example of a comment: I shared your “review of Generous Justice” on my Facebook Page.)

On Friday, February 25th, 2011 I’ll randomly select the winners. Right now I have at least 3 books to give away but I am scouring my shelves for more.  I’ll be giving books away according to how I rated them.  So if your name is drawn first you will get  a 4 or 5 star book in my opinion.  If your name is drawn last you might end up with a 2-3 star book (I won’t burden anyone with a 1 star book).  Obviously if more than 3 people enter,  not everyone will get a book.  If less than 3 enter you may get more than one book. There is no limit to how many times you can enter.  Just share a different blog post with each entry and place a separate comment on this blog so your entry gets counted properly.  If you have questions leave a comment and I’ll answer.  If you win, I’ll mail the books to you providing that you live in the continental United States or Canada.  (unless of course you live here in town, then we can make arrangements for me to drop them off).

Here are a few of my favorites from over the past year or two:

MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Tangle Christian?

The video above is from a friend of mine.  He has a different version out now.  Its a great call for followers of Jesus to wake up and realize some of the contradictions in their lives.  We claim to know Jesus and want to demonstrate love toward others, but how often does that  stop at the window of Social Media (Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)?

I am constantly disappointed by people who claim to follow Jesus but consistently live like they do not know him in how they interact on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  For example… I consistently see a “Christian” teenager type up a rant about someone else or even a “Christian” adult make an ambiguous jab at someone in their status update only to have a nosy friend ask, “what happened?” and they spill the beans about how selfish they really are and how wronged they feel about something or someone.  This is the kind of thing that should be done in private (Matthew 18) between the offended and the offender… not all over Facebook.

What are some ways that you have seen Social Media (facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc.) be used to proclaim the message of Jesus?

What are some ways that you have seen “Christians” act in unappealing ways on Social Media?

What are some basic guidelines you would recommend for living your faith out on the internet as well as in person?

Don’t forget to view the video above and listen to the song.

When Church People do Bad Things

from-flikerSo here is the deal.  Most Wednesdays I teach and part of our strategy of discipleship is reteaching.  Which means that we challenge our students to take what they learn on a Wednesday and introduce it into conversation or get two or three of their friends together for a small groups Bible study using the Revelation Application Guide as teaching guide (its something we are working on and not a finished product).  So what better way to readdress the issues we discuss than to put up a blog post on Thursdays that highlights what we have learned on Wednesdays?

When Church People do Bad Things

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.  But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” – Matthew 18:15-17

It’s Not about You

One of the best things that can ever happen is for a believer to truly understand that it is not about being offended or hurt, but about individual relationships with God and each other.  Many times we are too easily offended because we love ourselves too much.  Self-love is not what should motivate us to seek out a right relationship with our brother in Christ, it is God-love.

For this reason it is important that that offended party (or the one who witnessed the brother in sin) go to him.  You should not wait for an apology before you attempt to reconcile with a Christian brother.  This models the way that Christ has come to us (Romans 5:8).

You Should Go Alone

It is not about you when someone has sinned against you.  It is about their relationship with God.  You should approach them about their offense in private in a way that makes much of God and minimizes your pride.  You should not use the world of social media (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc…) to defame the person who has offended you.  You should seek to reconcile things in the peaceful quiet of a one on one conversation.

The Goal is Restoration

The aim is to gently and persuasively pull your brother back into right relationship with Jesus Christ and others.    The gospel is preached and the drama of redemption is played out when we lovingly confront our brother’s sin for the purpose of restoration.  Real love does not allow sin to go unchecked but holds others accountable for the purpose of godliness.

I love my daughter and because I do I will prevent her from doing things that will cause her great harm and pain.  It is love to restrain and compel my three year old daughter that playing with knives is wrong.  It is hate to let her contently play with knives to the point that she causes serious harm to herself or others.  In the same way love compels us to reach out to our brother in sin and bring him back into the fold (Matthew 18:12-14).

. . . . . . .

Obviously there is a lot more to this passage that I have time for here.  We can pick up the debate about the later stages of this process later, but in the meantime check out some of the following passages that address this issue.

  • Matthew 7:1-7
  • Galatians 6:1-2
  • Romans 12:19