Please Turn With Me in Your Phones… – Smart Phones and Tablets in Church

One of the first changes we made to the bulletins at White Fields when we redesigned them last year, was to get rid of a chunk of text which said: “Please turn off cell phones and pagers during service”.  First of all: pagers are only found in museums, so I don’t think we’ll have a big problem with those being on in service, and second: I don’t want people to turn off their phones in church. That’s right – you read that correctly. I don’t want them answering phone calls or sending texts – but I’d say that our technology culture has developed enough of an etiquette by now, that that goes without saying for most people.

Christianity Today published an article last week about a Barna poll which had shown how millennials use technology in their faith life. The title of the article was: “Watch Out, Pastors: Millennials are Fact-Checking Your Sermons”. First, let me say, that I think we make too much of a big deal over the term “Millennial” – to the point that we seem like we are studying a wild animal rather than dealing with individuals. The reality is, that it isn’t only young people who are connected; nowadays, everyone is connected. Some of the most tech-savvy people I know are in their 60’s. This week SNL’s Weekend Update reported on how Facebook’s stock share prices dropped because of a report that less and less teenagers are using the site. ‘”Really? I think Facebook is great” said moms.’ That’s right – moms are all over Facebook, and every other kind of social media. Because being connected to the internet is the new way to be human. And this isn’t just the case in the United States – reports show that the most connected countries in the world are outside of the United States – places like the Philippines. My experiences is that Hungarians are way more connected to Facebook than Americans. The internet, in many ways, serves as a great equalizer.

Being connected to the internet is the new way to be human.

And that brings us back to the point of the internet and church. The article I mentioned above warned pastors against fibbing, because some of the young people in their congregations might be on their phones fact-checking you as you speak. Here’s what I think: If you are fibbing or exaggerating, then you deserve to be found out! How dare anyone stand up and speak in God’s name and use half-truths and lies or non-credible information to bolster a point they are trying to make? That is an utter lack of respect for God and for the people you minister to. If you are going to teach something, then it better be true!

Pastors: If you are fibbing or exaggerating in your sermons, you deserve to be found out!

For example: earlier today, my cousin, who recently declared himself an outspoken atheist, jumped into a conversation I was having about something my son said about Jesus’ crucifixion, to ask if there are any non-Christian credible sources from antiquity that spoke of Jesus as a historical figure and a man who performed miracles. I was able to immediately send him an article which contained a collection of those writings, which he obviously assumed did not exist. Here’s the point: I am not afraid of the truth – because if what I believe is not true, then I don’t want to believe it!  And if what I believe is true, then I don’t need to be afraid of people investigating its veracity.

So here’s what I say: I WANT you to use your phone during my sermon! Don’t be texting people, don’t be surfing the web – be engaging and connecting with what we’re studying.  I WANT you to be posting to Facebook during my sermons; I WANT you to be tweeting – as long as you are posting and tweeting as a form of engagement. I love it when I come home from church on a Sunday afternoon, and I see that members of our church were tweeting out or Facebooking quotes from my sermon during the message!  That means that the words of my sermon will have a greater reach than they would have otherwise, because they get sent out to hundreds of thousands of people on those social networks.

For over two years now, I have preached from a tablet rather than printed out notes. At White Fields I don’t have a pulpit – I have a mic stand with an iKlip on it. On my iPad I have about 10 versions of the Bible available at my fingertips, and I read from them as I teach. For this reason, for quite a while, I didn’t bring a Bible with me up to the “pulpit” – since I would read the scriptures off of my iPad. Recently though, I did take an old-school paper Bible up with me and read from it, and I got comments right away about how people were happy to see that. So, ever since, I’ve started doing that again. I’ve also started carrying a paper Bible with me to counseling and discipleship meetings, whereas I previously only took my iPad and read scriptures from it. The reason I’ve made this change is because I realize the incredible symbolic value of the Bible as a book. Everyone carries an iPad or a smart phone, but not everyone carries a Bible. When I read my Bible in a coffee shop, people know what I’m reading – whereas they don’t when I read from an iPad.

What about you?  Do you read the Bible on your phone or tablet at church? Do you engage with the sermon while it’s being preached?

The danger of it of course is that if someone lacks self-control, they could easily be distracted from the sermon rather than engage with it on their device.

What do you think? How do we leverage getting greater engagement via smart phones and tablets without people getting distracted  by them? Is it possible?  Leave me a comment below about your experience.

15 thoughts on “Please Turn With Me in Your Phones… – Smart Phones and Tablets in Church

  1. I turn my phone to vibrate out of respect and think everyone else should to. As for young people checking to see if there Pastor is right or not we should be studying our facts our selves but google doesn’t have all the right answers. And I’m sure the Pastor would really appreciate if the young people would come in humility and ask about the questions they have! My husband is a Pastor and he studies all week for one message, I know he loves when people come to him with questions. And I’m old fashion I really love my bible, I love writing in it, I love carrying it all over and I may never get use to using an ipad. And just as the Pastor will be held accountable for what he teaches, so will we if we are messing around texting on our phone and missing out on what the Holy Spirit has to say to us. I’m sorry this article rubbed me the wrong way because everyone does a little research on the internet and they think the know better and this next generation thinks they know better then everyone else and they don’t receive well!! Proverbs 13.1And it also comes across like I know better and I’m going to question the Pastor, instead of sitting and receiving the message as a whole. Yes study if you have questions are disagree with something then do your research but during the sermon? Sorry I didn’t care for this article! Maybe it’s because I’ve always sat under verse by verse teaching and respected my Pastors and if I had questions I didn’t look it up during service.

    1. Good points, Jodi. I think people should turn their phones to vibrate too, and most people do so without needing a reminder. It’s part of our tech culture at this point.
      I’m sorry the article rubbed you the wrong way. I will say though, that as a pastor I have experienced other pastors, whether on blogs or in sermons (including verse by verse sermons) say things which were factually incorrect, and it think it is not honoring to God or our people. (James 3:1)
      I also agree that people will be accountable to God for how they use their technology in church and the heart that they have towards their pastors and teachers (Hebrews 13:17)
      God bless you, and thanks for sharing your viewpoint!

  2. God bless you! And I hope I didn’t come across strong. I love my husband and respect my Pastor and really come to receive at church. But I do see what you are saying about being held accountable for what we say and I agree.

  3. as Dylan would say, “The times, they are a changin'”

    Be it pastor let hymn or worship to a full band; liturgy or non; respectfully dressed-up or casually approachable; Bible in hand or on screen: God has and always will look to the heart.

    I hope to visit your church someday.

  4. I think this is great! The fact that Pastor Nick wants people to check facts as he is preaching shows how genuine of a pastor he is. He only wants to share the truth. As Pastor Nick writes in the article, the technology and information we have literally at out fingertips is incredible, and if people are fact checking, taking notes, or following along with an online Bible they are more engaged in the sermon. It is also a way for a new generation to connect with the message.

    1. That’s right, Kristen – the technology that is changing our culture is just another medium for information, just like when the printing press was invented and information spread like wildfire. We should strive to leverage everything we can for the furtherance of the MESSAGE of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  5. i disagree that people should be fact checking during a sermon. If you are busy fact checking, then how can you hear the whole sermon. i di use my computer during the sermon, but only for the scripture references. It is faster than looking it up in the bible.

    1. I’m not actually advocating for people fact-checking during the sermon. I am addressing the fact that, according to the article I referred to, people are doing it, whether it’s the appropriate time for it or not.
      Keep reading your Bible, no matter what platform you use! In Paul’s day they used handwritten scrolls, until that new-fangled technology the printing press came along. I’m sure there were plenty of people then who said, “I’m old school! I like the feel and look of a scroll on the pulpit! I like to carry 15 scrolls with me to church, and I get super upset when the pastor jumps around from book to book! Do you know how hard it is to ‘turn in your scroll to Luke 22?'”

      1. Is that an attempt at humor? Hopefully you are not in Georgia where they execute pastors for making jokes. i do not think the people walked around with the bible on scrolls. If anyone would say anything about someone using an electronic bible during the service, then he or she would be foolish and the bible says a lot about foolish people.

  6. I agree. Today Pastors are more accountable to the saints then ever before for what they teach. It is good. Keeps leaders on the right track. To many wolves in sheep’s clothing. Salvation is most important and people need to know the truth no matter how they get it. R Give friendly reminders to l encourage the youth to pay attention. I’m blessed to have a Pastor that preaches sound doctrine and He does it all from his IPAD. VIDA Abundante Church is moving right along with the times! God is good. Thank you for sharing Nick!

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