Wednesday, November 16, 2011


So, I saw this picture on a friend's Facebook page. (Shout out to Vanessa and Nic Mount, missionaries friends of ours who are spreading the kingdom in Hawaii...Don't laugh...this is legit mission work)

And I got to thinking: How would our small group react to this idea? How would our church react if we had a bin  in the back of the room that everyone placed their cell phone in before entering worship? My guess is...not too well.

But I think this move might be one of the most countercultural commitments a church could make to stand out in our culture. Are we willing to believe our worship of God and conversation with the people around us is more important than a phone call or text we might receive?

I know, I know. I sound like an 83-year old man: "Back in my day, I had to carry around coins to insert in a pay phone to call my mom to pick me up from the golf course. You can live without a cell phone." But hear me out.

Have you been to a playground recently? Back in my day, my mom would talk with other moms or interact with us at the public park. I dare you to go to a local park today and start a conversation with another parent. I guarantee the Facebook app on their phone would be a tough competitor to a conversation with you, as a human being. Or try to start a conversation at an airport or a restaurant waiting area.

I read a study recently that mentioned the problem of nursing mothers giving their attention to their cell phones and iPads instead of their nursing babies. The special bond made between nursing mothers and babies is being affected by our addiction to technology.

I'm tired of it. I'm tired of my lunches being interrupted by a cell phone call. I'm tired of diverted attention to a Twitter reply when I'm in the middle of an important conversation. I'm tired of hearing, "Oh, I'm sorry. I've got an important phone call I must take."

I'm tired of my child interrupting me when I'm reading a blog or checking my Facebook notifications. Oops! It's not just those people. It's me.

Jon Acuff, author of the popular blog called "Stuff Christians Like," confessed a similar struggle recently. His poignant story recounted his daughter asking him to take a picture with her that he wouldn't post immediately to his myriad of of social networking sites. It seems documenting the fun times with our families has become more important than having fun times, which is a shame really.

The ministry of presence (being physically, mentally, and spiritually present with the person in front of you) has never been more needed, more powerful, or more countercultural. I'm rarely with a person who gives me more attention than someone they are communicating with outside of the room.

And as families, we're going to have to find new ways to do this with so many technological distractions.

I'm already noticing a problem with my 2-year old. He prefers the iPad to human interaction.

I'm just really struggling to find out where he learned that.



humbledservant said...

Great article Collin! I was out to lunch yesterday at a mall and I couldn't believe how many people were having lunch with another person and they both were looking at their phones. Of course that was only when I had a chance to look up from my phone. My excuse? I was eating by myself.

Rick Odell said...

I would call you and tell you what a great article this is... but then I realized you probably wouldn't answer. ;)

Dick bolz said...

So, what are we going to do about this?

Preston Cox said...


I've been following your blog since September when we met at Summit, and I have to say this is such a great post. I am immersed in our technological world. I am so ashamed that there are times I don't pay attention to what's going in around me. I think that things like text, social networking, etc give us the illusion that things are changing around us and if we don't check it out then we might miss it.

I love the idea of the church sacrificing their phones/tablets at the door but that also means that we as ministers must sacrifice some of technology we take for granted. I wonder if our services would change if we stripped down to the basics. For example, this is one of the reasons I love a capella worship. The purity of the voices transcends what is normative in our church culture. It's not a better way, it's just a very connected/participative form of worship.

My hope is that we can move to balance instead of indulgence.

Collin Packer said...

I struggle mightily to put the phone down when I get home. This post certainly comes from a confessional stance!

Thanks for the responses.

Dick, what are we going to do about this? Great question. What should our churches do? It's easy to denounce it all, but I also have ideas for how Twitter could help the church continue the conversation and give feedback in a dialogue, even during the service.

I'd love to hear more thoughts on this as well!

RK Hageman said...

I have a phone, but I don't have a phone that does ANY of those things... it just makes phone calls and can do texts, the hard way (using the number pad). And I leave mine turned off 95% of the time so that it has a live battery when I need it.

Mind, I'd love to have a smart phone... but I'm pretty sure it's not smart to spend that kind of money on it.

Linda H. said...

Oddly, when I hang out at the dog park virtually no one looks at their phone. Something about the dog park culture apparently encourages interaction with the other people. It is the friendliest place I know aside from our church.