iBibles again

I saw a fellow surfing his cell phone throughout the entire worship service yesterday, so for every good example you have rightly mentioned there are plenty of others who rudely give in to temptation. Perhaps we need to welcome people to use their technology while regularly reminding them about the dangers that come with it. What if we said something like this at the start of each service?

“Please silence your pagers and cell phones as we prepare to worship the living God. We welcome you to use your phones, readers, or other digital devices to follow along in God’s Word, but we warn you that this is the worst possible time to send texts, check email, or bomb angry birds. God demands and deserves our full attention, and he destroyed Nadab and Abihu for offering “strange fire” during worship. So use your kindle fire at your own risk.”

I have been reading books on technology, and I took the advice of a commenter and this weekend read John Dyer, From the Garden to the City. Dyer is a fun writer and his book is a helpful and provocative read. I highly recommend it alongside Tim Challies, The Next Story, for the best Christian perspectives on technology.

Here is a highlight from Dyer’s book that seems relevant to our recent discussions on technology. He quoted the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which divides technology into three classes.

1. “Everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal.”

2. “Anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it.”

3. “Anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.”

Maybe my problem with iBibles is that I’m forty-five? Dyer does mention that he inadvertently taught his youth group not to bring their Bibles to church when he began posting the texts on his PowerPoint screen. So I may be old, but at least I’m not crazy.


Add yours →

  1. Worth the read just to see your smiling face on the mast.

    But, thanks for the book references. We have Bibles on the seats for our people, but I invite them to use digital resources as well. I don’t think ANYONE’S ever distracted while I’m teaching… Hello? Are you still there?

    I have dreamed of a day when when we’d have tablets to sitting on the seats rather than paper Bibles. The tablets would only have access to content that we would provide. Song lyrics (iHymnal, anyone?), slides, notes, the prayers, some interactive features and, of course, the text.

    I just can’t get past the idea of policing the return of the devices without it being uncomfortable… “HEY! I see that in your coat.. Drop it! And please stop by our Visitor’s table for some coffee and donuts on your way out.”

  2. would it be hypocritical if I made this announcement on Sunday right before I preach from the sermon notes on my iPad….which was indeed released only days before I turned 30…..

  3. So I’ve got to ask, you were able to multitask by watching him “surfing his cell phone throughout the entire worship service yesterday” and still hear the sermon and worship God, but he wasn’t able to multitask by “surfing his cell phone throughout the entire worship service yesterday” and still hear the sermon and worship God at the same time.

    To paraphrase the joker, Why so worried about him?

  4. Too many people would throw a fit if they were banned from using their phones during the AM service. If they were only using them to look up the passage I doubt that the protest would be as loud.

    Banning adults from using their phone probably won’t work, but encouraging the congregation to avoid distractions is a very good idea. Many people need to hear this… and that it applies to their phones.

    When I teach teens I don’t let them use their phones at all. That would be completely foolish on my part. Too many of them would be distracted, especially the ones who need to hear the message the most. I work too hard to get them there and I work too hard to communicate the message to allow them to distract themselves. Teaching isn’t just talking; it is causing people to learn. If they are distracted, they are not learning and I am not teaching.

  5. What would happen if we just gave compelling messages? Why don’t we stop and ask ourselves why their phone is more compelling than the message/teaching time they are hearing? When we do ask that question, why do we assume the problem lies with them?

  6. Thanks, Michael, for these insightful comments. I’m looking forward to reading the books you recommended in preparation for a sermon I’m preaching this Sunday on Genesis 1:1-3.

    Grace and Peace,

    Mike Thomas

  7. Jonathan Shelley January 31, 2012 — 2:10 pm


    It seems to me that the people who want to be distracted during the service will find a way to be distracted with or without iphones. I know when I was a teen I used to read my Bible rather than listen to the sermon. I justified it since I was still in God’s Word, but I certainly wasn’t involved in the corporate act of worship. Whether we are filling in all the circles in the bulletin or playing the latest fad game online, we can always find a way to disengage from worship if we want to. For example, we might spend our time obsessing about how someone’s large hat is blocking the screen so we can’t see the amazing PowerPoint presentation the pastor put together, or maybe we are too distracted by what someone is doing on her iphone. (Incidentally, how do you know the guy was surfing and not taking notes? I don’t doubt you, I just wonder if you were actually close enough to see what he was doing or whether this is a well-informed assumption.) I remember Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood about how easy it is to distract congregants during the service, and it is a good warning to myself to make sure I focus on the presence of the Living God and not my adorable daughter or whatever else might grab my attention.

  8. Mike,

    Thanks for sharing your church experience. I like your announcement, but I’d make it shorter by cutting it off after “bomb angry birds.” I might even put a smiley face after “birds.” 🙂

    My view on using technology at church was pretty clear after your last blog on this iBible topic, but I must say that I agree with you that some gentle hints on proper digital etiquette are appropriate. I regularly hear such helpful reminders at work, airplanes and even at movie theaters. I certainly agree that churches should be at least as focused on discouarging inappropriate use (or encouraging proper use of mobile devices.)

    Do I sense a possible book topic for you – or at least a more formal treatment of this topic in an article for a Christian magazine? While the books you mention are certainly very well-done, the fast-paced changes in technology will certainly make this a relevant topic until our Lord returns. It’s hard to believe that Facebook, Gmail and Twitter were not even around a decade ago.

    Thanks for your perspectives,

  9. I never bring my phone into church. I leave it in my car. I can’t bear the thought of my phone going off in the service. At a tense moment in the message, suddenly the sanctuary is filled with Joan Jett bellowing, “I love Rock ‘n’ Roll …”

    Someone said I should just put my phone on vibrate, but I don’t even want to be tempted with answering the, uh … vibration in my pocket. So, if I’m not going to answer the phone, why bring it into the sanctuary? I decided that whatever calls I might get can wait until after worship is over.

    I guess I’m too attached to my digital devices. After all, I’m 51. I’m old-fashoined. I bring my Papyrus Bible to church.

  10. Correction – I’m NOT too attached to digital devices …

  11. Wow this post was heavy. Especially the example of Nadab and Abihu. God bless you.

  12. So, you are a couple years younger than me…the IBM XT and AT dinosaurs were first implemented at Lake Superior State College (now University) when I was a freshman back in 1982. 🙂

    My son played the role of Tevye (the father) in his middle school’s presentation of Fiddler on the Roof held at Kenowa Hills last week. He told me that there were those in the front row at Saturday’s performance who texted during the entire play. Although the setting is different from the case that you cited at a worship service, it is the same culture in which we live.

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