Smartphones, smart apps, smart spirituality
We live in a world that not only craves but demands the next big gadget breakthrough promising to be a game changer. Even major international news services such as CNN are quick to stream “keynotes” from Tim Cook, the new CEO of Apple, that promise to change our lives. We know the names of the CEOs of computer companies as if they were baseball, football, or music stars. It seems all that Tim Cook (and the late Steve Jobs), Eric Schmidt, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Ballmer are missing are trading cards with their quarterly earning stats on them—but then I bet there is already an app that can do that for us.
We can’t fight it. This world is changing, and those who don’t keep up will be left behind. Even e-mail is currently scheduled to be a dead medium. It is literally yesterday’s news. Instead Facebook, Google+, and a host of other instant social media platforms are giving us a taste of our immediate tomorrows. It’s like the Verizon 4G LTE commercials say: “That is so four seconds ago!”
Let’s use current technology to transform the world, and at the same time, let’s not be transformed by it.
Church and Technology
I am glad to note that our church is not being “left behind” or showing up as “Johnny came late” to the party! Major Adventist media groups sport apps, churches are streaming services to a worldwide audience, church buildings are being equipped with Wi-Fi, and every day my Sabbath school app pops up on my Droid Bionic reminding me to study my Sabbath school lesson. Preachers regularly preach from iPads, Kindles, and a variety of electronic tablets. People who are traveling in this digital world Skype into board meetings, and conferences are held in Google+ hangouts all the time. Printed agendas are becoming a thing of the past as my church leaders prefer to show up to committee meetings with laptops and tablets instead. Most important, we see the gospel reach places where just five or 10 years ago it would have been impossible to have a digital presence. I cannot help hearing the words of Jesus echo in my ear: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).1
Beware of the Technology Pit
So, is there a downside to all of this? I mean, what more can we want when the church is keeping relevant and the gospel is being preached? Is this not a dream come true for us?
Yet I worry. I worry about the environment we are creating in which church members and, yes, even pastors openly chastise each other over our technology choices. I worry about a world in which someone using an Apple, a Droid, or (dare I say it) a PC is like declaring yourself openly a Republican or Democrat, or, worse yet, a theological liberal or conservative. Wait, wasn’t the whole point of technology to bring us together, not tear us apart? Can we afford to let it tear us apart? And what does it say about us as a society and as members of a worldwide community of faith when we only dream of the next “latest and greatest” gadgets? We toss out or “Craigslist” perfectly good technology rather than come to church and be seen with last year’s model smartphone or tablet. When I think of the counsel our forefathers were given about costly living and self-adornment I wonder if we just found a new way of doing the same old sins covered in those “little red books” written more than 100 years ago—and, ironically, all available in an app on my tablet?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not antitechnology whatsoever. Rather, on the contrary, my church members have affectionately called me “the technology pastor,” and I have innovated new uses of interchurch services via Internet streaming in my conference. But as Jim Collins so poignantly said: “When used right, technology becomes an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.”2
I am reminded of the words of the old hymn: Our “hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Here is my point: Let’s use current technology to transform the world, and at the same time, let’s not be transformed by it. God surely is the ultimate Creator of technology, and He has allowed it to surface right now for a purpose. We better not be like the Gentiles in Romans 1 who worshipped the creation and not the Creator. Let’s not forget that there will come a time when it is all shut off. Let’s not make “iDols” of our technology, engaging in the world’s newest form of false spirituality. When the next über gadget does finally come, I don’t want to forget it is all about the ultimate keynote “Game Changer”—Jesus. Let’s make sure we keep moving forward with Jesus and His cross at the center of all our innovations and technologies. n
- Scripture quotations in this article are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Jim Collins, Good to Great (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), p. 152.