Meanderings of a Minister

How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 6

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy and causing us to feed on the produced images others want us to see.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Another way that our phones are changing us is very related to last week’s issue.  Reinke says it this way, “We Become Like What We ‘Like’”.  Many of us remember Middle School.  We remember trying to fit in.  We remember trying to decide if we would be a jock, nerd, preppie (Hey!  I’m old!), or some other subset of Middle School culture.  How did we make these decisions and which group did we choose?  We usually made these decisions based upon their perceived benefits to us.  If we saw a pretty girl (or handsome dude) that was a part of a subset, then we chased that particular one.  If our friends suddenly joined another subset, then we would decide if we wanted to be friends with them any longer.  If we did, we joined, or tried to join, that one.  Our phones encourage this as well.  That effect can be positive or negative, but it is an effect and it is changing us.

The Bible addresses this on a personal level when Paul said, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NASB95) Many of us realize this and that has some to do with why we choose the friends we choose and the places we visit, etc.  But have we stopped to think that electronic company corrupts good morals as well?  For instance, if a friend is always posted pictures of family time, we begin to feel dissatisfied with our own family time and take actions to change to align our reality with the images we have ‘liked’.  Conversely, if a friend posts pictures of their new girlfriend and the fabulous life together, all of sudden we find ourselves critical of our spouses and more demanding because our reality does not measure up to what we are seeing in social media.  The direction of the influence is not the main issue, but the fact that we are influenced is the issue.

The average reader could easily stop and see through a perceived subterfuge here.  They might be tempted to say, “But isn’t Reinke attempting to influence people through his book?”  While they are correct in assuming that the author is aiming at serious thought and potential changes in the behavior of the reader, consider that the average person doesn’t read that much anymore (see earlier article on losing literacy).  Consider also that a picture truly is worth a thousand words and it does not take one long to realize this might have potentially powerful effects.

Reinke quotes an old adage that is becoming more and more the situation in which we find ourselves.  “We are not who we think we are; we are not even who others think we are; we are who we THINK others think we are.”  While other chapters have hit upon the temptation to be inauthentic in how we present ourselves, the effect is not only on us as we present ourselves, but how we consume what others produce (last week’s article) and then how that changes the way we think.  We become like what we “like”.


How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 3

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways you Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

Two weeks ago, we looked at the issue of our addiction to distraction.  In addition to this, phones also encourage us to ignore flesh and blood relationships in favor of virtual relationships.  This happens for several reasons, some of which can provide quite the minefield for a follower of Christ.

Last week, we looked at this issue of how our phones are training us to ignore flesh and blood in favor of virtual relationships.  This is shone through many avenues, but we looked at distracted driving, ignoring the safety of others, distractions from personal interaction, rudeness, and other aspects of treating people in the virtual world with more importance and urgency than even God.

The next way Reinke listed as a result of how our phones are changing us in the area of causing us to crave immediate approval.  As we look at social media, we are constantly checking to see if we have more friends, followers, mentions, downloads, likes, and other electronic measures that would indicate that we are worth someone’s time and effort.  We check our phones constantly to get a sense of our importance, value, or worth.  And we are becoming more and more addicted.

One way that this particular aspect of how our phone is changing us that can become actually physically dangerous is how people are having to find more and outlandish ways to get noticed.  Used to be that we could post a picture with our pet and we would get a certain number of likes from friends, pet enthusiasts, and parents.  Now, we have to find ways that are grotesque, outlandish, or just plain weird.  For instance, some girls are trying to make their waists smaller and smaller to make their pictures and videos catch people’s attention so that they might become celebrities.  One particular girl went so far as to have her bottom ribs removed to enable her to have a smaller waist.  Doctors have suggested that this is dangerous for the organs those ribs are supposed to protect, but the girl got her 1 million shares and her fifteen minutes of celebrity.

Another aspect is how we have taken to concept of celebrity and elevated its importance to go far beyond the neurotic actor or actress that has to be the headliner on the marquee.  Now, the average public can compete for this title.  How do they do so?  Not by being self-sacrificing or heroic, but by being noticeable.  Recently, a man went live on Facebook to show himself shooting a crowd of people and then turning the gun on himself.  Viewers were shocked and horrified by the violence; however, they also shared the video hundreds of thousands of times.  He achieved his celebrity and it was mostly not even questioned as to whether or not it was infamous to do so.

Another particularly dangerous area where this aspect is hurting individuals and families, even within the church, is that people are turning more and more to online friends for comfort.  You might not think that is such a big deal, but what does this do to developing fellowship in the local church?  How does it affect families?  Couples?  How many times have we heard the story of the man that comes home and tells his wife that he met someone online and is leaving her to be with this online person with whom he has been having an online affair?

Additionally, anything that we turn to for comfort that did not live a perfect life, die, and conquer death for us is not worthy of our worship.  Turning to someone or something for comfort is a form of worshipping that someone or something.  That something does not live forever and does not stand at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.  Simply put, to give anyone or anything God’s place in our hearts, schedules, or lives is not wise because they will not meet the need we are looking for them to fill.  Only God can do that.

When we look for constant approval, we are focused on ourselves, our wants, our needs, and our demands for attention.  This necessarily means that we are not living otherworldly lives.  We are focused on here and now and ignore eternity and the needs of others.  This is not how we are commanded to live as believers.

Our phones are changing us into attention-addicts who, like children, constantly say to the virtual world, “Hey!  Look at me!”  In the meantime, they are yelling the same and relationship is lost in the ensuing contest for attention.  This is not good and we better be careful.

Why Do You Go to Church?
July 28, 2016, 4:07 pm
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Okay.  I know I have asked this question in an article before.  But as I was reading in Nehemiah this week, I came across a curious situation I had not noted before.  In Nehemiah 11, time has passed and the city of Jerusalem is not being populated by the returnees from captivity.  The leaders of the people came up with a system for inhabiting David’s capitol city.  They would cast lots and one out of every ten persons would be chosen and would have to move into Jerusalem from the surrounding areas.  Immediately after this verse (11:1) is a short verse that almost goes overlooked.

“And the people blessed all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.” (Nehemiah 11:2)

I found this very interesting.  There were some people who were basically drafted to live in Jerusalem and then there were others who volunteered.  The people praised those who volunteered.

As I thought about this situation, it dawned on me that many people go to church, give to church, and serve at church for a variety of reasons as well.  For some, they feel like they have been drafted and don’t have a choice.  Having pastored small churches all my life, I know what this looks like and feel like.  There are some programs that we feel each church should have (Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Worship, Nursery, etc.) and in the smaller church, someone has to step up and take on this role.  Now, there are some who feel called to this ministry while others do it because “someone has to” or they are drafted.  If they don’t, then the ministry will suffer and no one wants to see the church suffer.

Even in the not-so-small church, this dynamic can be at play.  Some people serve because they feel a divine calling to use the gifts and talents God has given them to serve in that capacity.  Others serve because they feel guilty or hope that if they do enough, they will be accepted by the leadership of the church, or so they can feel like they are pulling their weight.  Still others serve because they feel it gives them the right to control how that ministry performs for their children or interests.  Motivations can be a many splendored thing.

So…why do you go to church?  Why do you serve in church?  Why do you do what you do for God?  Do you do so because you are grateful to God for all He has done for you?  Do you feel this so deeply because, like the woman who washed Jesus’ feet, you know how much you have been forgiven?  Do you serve at church because you don’t want to let someone down?  Do you serve because you feel an obligation to do so out of guilt or out of hoping to earn God’s favor?

I guess I must back up a bit.  I might have gotten ahead of myself.  Perhaps I should have started with asking the question, do you go to church?  For even many who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ do not attend church with any regularity and the idea of actually committing to one church family and serving in a vital ministry would cut into their free time and their ability to pursue money, pleasure, vacation, status, etc.  Even though they know that scripture commands us to assemble together (see Hebrews 10:24-25 and all the “one another” passages of the Bible), they still have no time for church or they let their feelings of being hurt or let down by a church rule over their faithfulness to the One Who died for them. While I do not intend to minimize the way some churches hurt people or let them down, I also know this should not determine our faithfulness to the One Who took our beating, or scorn, our shame, and our death and separation from God.  We must continue to meet together, grow, serve, love, and forgive.

So…why do you go to church (or not go)?  Why do you serve (or not serve)?  Why do you give (or not give)?