Many people have noticed over the past several months that I now preach from sermon notes on my iPad. That little piece of technology is a great blessing that allows me to scroll through my sermon, using my thumb on a screen, rather than shuffling papers as I used to. Technology, when it is properly used, can be a great blessing. I have noticed more and more people in our services using smart phones and tablets to look up scripture and even to take notes, and I see the use of technology in these ways as a blessing.
However, the wealth of information provided through such devices can also serve as a deterrent to listening and a distraction to us and to others around us when we are gathered to worship the living God. I have had several people share with me how they see members checking Facebook, Tweeting messages, sending texts, checking e-mails, playing games, and surfing the web during our services. Bothers and sisters, this should not ever be the case.
When we gather together on the Lord’s Day, we gather to exalt the Living God. As Jesus said in John 4, we are to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Psalm 2:11 says, “Worship the LORD with reverence, and rejoice with trembling.” Psalm 29:1-2 says, “Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in holy array.”
Technological devices can support us in as we endeavor to worship, but they can also draw our hearts away from being attentive to Him and His Word. I want to challenge all of us, for the sake of our own obedience as well as for the sake of our example to others, to cautiously guard ourselves from technological distractions as we gather to worship. God deserves our greatest reverence, respect, and attentiveness. Here are some helpful directives for us and our children.
Discipline yourself in how you use your device in worship. Using it to pull up Scripture or to take notes is a good thing. Limit yourself to those two pursuits. You may hear a quote that you would like to post or tweet, or something may be said that you want to look up further information about on the internet. Make a note to yourself to do those things later – DO NOT do them during worship. When you do, you disengage yourself from listening and you set a poor example to those around you who see the screen on your device. If you have difficulty avoiding Facebook, or the web, or e-mail, or games, or texting, you need to turn your device off during the service or you need to not bring it with you. Your soul is of vastly greater importance than these earthly distractions.
As regards our children, we have seen rare cases where parents will simply hand their electronic device over to their young ones so that they can entertain themselves with a game or a video, particularly during the sermons. Please remember that even if a child has not yet repented and believed in Christ, our goal is for them to hear the gospel and be challenged to turn to Christ. By having them plug their minds and hearts into some form of electronic entertainment, you are encouraging them to tune out the Word of life. Secondly, the whole goal of having our children with us in worship is to model for them and to teach them what behavior is proper in worship. You would not come to worship and whip out a big newspaper to read while the sermon is being preached, so help guard your children from such distractive, disrespectful behavior as well.
As regards our youth, they have the propensity to be much more covert in their use of technology. A generation ago, students would pass notes during the service. Today, they text one another. If they were to have a world-wide contest to find the fastest typist on a miniature smart phone keyboard, I am confident it would be a teenager. I would encourage our students to follow the advice I gave above regarding self-discipline with your phones. I would also encourage parents to observe their students to see if they are misusing their devices during services. What one student does often involves distracting others from worship, so it is important to intervene, perhaps by confiscating such devices during worship until self-discipline develops.
As time progresses, the use of technology in all areas of life will most certainly increase. This is true even in church. Hand-held devices are blessings to us in so many ways, but we must utilize them in ways that honor God, not in ways that distract us from worship our Lord, Jesus Christ. I love you all dearly!