Three Reasons Why Smartphones are Helpful in Worship Services
There’s plenty not to like about smartphones in church. Most every preacher has experienced a jarring ringtone at an inopportune moment in a sermon. My favorite was the time AC/DC’s Back in Black blared as I was making a point on hell. Too bad the lyrics forget the hearse ‘cause I never die didn’t quite fit the theology I was preaching.
Smartphones can both interrupt and distract. Of course, the same could be said of windows (not the operating system). In Acts 20, a sleepy Eutychus falls out of a window while Paul is preaching, which was probably just as distracting then as an errant smartphone ring is today. Stare out a window. Stare at a smartphone. We’ve all daydreamed a distraction. And if you’re a parent of small children, you’ve likely—like me—handed them the muted insta-cartoon machine when their squirming started getting the attention of people three pews back.
The portable size and instantaneous connectivity of smartphones makes them powerful devices. In 2007, when Steve Jobs announced that the iPhone would change everything, it was no hyperbole. Revolutionary technology is often overwhelming. The movable type printing press raised concerns about information overload. The advent of newspapers caused people to fear social isolation (much like fears about smartphones today). Radio was thought to imbalance young minds. In 2005, a study claimed email hurt IQ more than pot.
But it was the printing press that began a movement to get the Bible into the hands of everyday people. Newspapers inspired church newsletters. Radio broadcasts revolutionized mission work. And smartphones will—like previous technological advances—help more than hurt. Let me offer three reasons why smartphones are helpful in worship services today.
- Turn on your Bibles. When I started preaching over ten years ago, the phrase “turn on your Bibles” was not often heard. Twenty-five years ago such a phrase was non-existent. Today about one in five use smartphones in church. Bible applications are quite popular and useful. Smartphones offer a new means of reading Scripture. If technology is going to be more invasive in your life, then it might as well include Scripture.
- Hashtag this. The exponential rise of social media could not be possible without smartphones. While some might—understandably—decry the shallowness of Instagram selfies and superficial tweets, social media has created a new method of taking sermon notes. Through the use of hashtags, congregants can now collaborate in taking sermon notes. When I preach, I usually place a suggested hashtag for each sermon on the screens during the service. After preaching, I enjoy looking through the collective notes of everyone. I learn what resonated with people. And instantaneously, particular sermon points can travel from the pulpit to the ends of the earth.
- Open your app. One way in which the church is just beginning to realize the power of smartphones is through applications which offer new ways of giving. These applications offer a customizable experience that is fast, simple, and secure. Biblically, giving is a spiritual discipline and an act of worship. Practically, these apps enable people to exercise the spiritual discipline of giving in new ways.
Ignoring the ubiquitous technological advance of smartphones is not helpful. People are fact-checking sermons in real time (so do your homework, pastors). People are reading their Bibles, taking notes, and giving, all through smartphones. Smartphones are in your worship services to stay. Use them. Just don’t fall out of a window while listening to AC/DC in church.
A version of this post was first published at the echurch giving blog.