This will likely be my last blog of 2018, and it’s befitting that it’s on a Sunday after church because of the subject.
As many of you know, I serve in my church on the production team. For those of you who don’t know what that is…it’s the lighting, sound, camera, and all of the behind-the-scenes activities to broadcast services both live and online. When I started, it was for the purposes of lighting, but there was a greater need for people to run cameras, so that’s how I serve now. Normally, I am on a mobile camera onstage getting closeups of instruments and musicians, so I rarely get an opportunity to see what goes on in the services themselves. Recently, though, I’ve also been added to serve on a stationary camera in the auditorium.
On Christmas Eve, we had two services instead of having them on Sunday. At some point in the middle of the service, we had a candle lighting segment where the members held candles during part of the worship music. I had an opportunity to be in the sanctuary during this time videoing the event, which was quite beautiful I must admit. But I digress…
While I was trying to find interesting angles to film, I couldn’t help but notice the number of people who were on their cell phones in the middle of the service. It was blatantly obvious because of the sharp lighting contrast between the blaring phone screens and the warm candlelight.
I remember thinking at the time how horrible it was that those people couldn’t put their phones down for an hour and a half worship service at Christmas! They were checking e-mails, messages, and I would imagine every social media imaginable. In other words, their minds were on everything but the service which was about Jesus’ birth and Christmas worship music.
Fast forward to today. I was on the stationary camera on the right side of the auditorium. It’s on an elevated platform to get it above the members and to have a better focus on the worship leaders. This allows me to see the congregants really well.
During the three services that we have, there were people on their phones. Many of them have chosen to use a virtual bible rather than using a printed one, which if that’s what they want to do, I guess that’s OK. I don’t personally like it for several reasons. For one, it doesn’t allow you to read other parts of scripture at the same time very well, and sometimes the Holy Spirit will take me from one page to another when reading it. Secondly, you cannot take notes. Forget any notion of virtual notes. It’s not the same thing. Finally, it’s a distraction. Between having to scroll to the next verse as well as the constant temptation to check any messages or notifications, it’s an easy tool for the devil to distract.
That’s exactly what I observed today. There was one teenager sitting next to my platform who was originally using the virtual bible app on his phone. But then it quickly changed to scrolling through music libraries, etc instead of focusing on the message. I saw SEVERAL people on their phones all within a short radius of each other. I could tell that one was reading text messages and answering them. Others were just browsing. Every one of them focusing on something other than the sermon.
Now I’m going to take a moment to backtrack a minute. I know I said that if people want to us virtual bibles, that’s OK; however, I remember thinking today that I wonder exactly how many people actually can find a bible passage in a real bible. Instead of having the books of the bible neatly listed where they can just select the appropriate passage, they would have to rely on their knowledge of how they are ordered in the bible. I remember having to memorize the books of the Old and New Testaments. It’s how I grew up, and to this day, I have not forgotten them. But I wonder how many cannot. It’s like having bible tabs but electronic.
Now before you write me and wonder why I wasn’t paying attention, you have to remember a couple of things. First, we have rehearsals, and often we hear everything before everyone else does. So by the time the service comes around, it’s not new to me as it is everyone else. Secondly, I also get to hear it every service. Yes, they are all slightly different. Who wants a cookie-cutter sermon?!? However, they are all still basically the same. Third, I actually do pay attention to the message. And any chatter in the headsets. And what’s going on around me in the sanctuary. You have to learn to multitask to be in production.
Now getting back to my original thoughts, I remember looking at the people in the services this morning as they watched their phones. And as I came home, the idea for this blog hit me like a brick in the head. I thought of them as electronic gods.
Read what scripture says:
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
(Exodus 20:3, NKJV)
This is the first of the Ten Commandments. Most people associate this with an idol that is carved from wood or stone, and yes, those are other gods too. However, God addressed those in the Second Commandment specifically.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…”
(Exodus 20:4-5a, NKJV)
Notice that it is here that scripture says not to carve something and worship it, as was the practice of other Ancient Near Eastern cultures. And as I read these one day, it hit me that God meant something specific here when He phrased these commandments as He did.
And it occurred to me that in a broader context, the First Commandment meant anything that superseded God Almighty Himself. In today’s modern culture that can equate to any of the following:
- Sporting events whether televised or participating in them
- The Internet
- Anything to which you are addicted
- Video Games
- Social Media
- Television / Movies
- Mobile Phones
- Friends / Family
I realize the last one on the list may be controversial, but I mean when you choose to spend all your time with those people rather than spending time with God. Basically, it means anything that is more important to you in your life than God is another god.
So as I watched these people today, I realized that they were so addicted to their phones and what came out of it than they were God. That’s true with much of society. If you don’t believe me, then look around you as you drive. You will notice people all the time viewing their phones while they drive (even if it’s illegal to do so) or they will view it at every traffic light when they are stopped. Observe the majority of people in a restaurant. They often have tables full of people, but no one is conversing with each other. No one is building relationships. They are on their phones. They are more focused on them than they are on the people who are choosing to spend time with them.
You cannot build a relationship that way! It destroys relationships!
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that phones are evil. Neither is anything on the list above (unless you are addicted to something you shouldn’t be). There is nothing wrong with books, music, movies, etc. But scripture teaches moderation. It teaches balance.
Today’s sermon was on making a choice for God rather than choosing something trivial such as acceptance or anything else. The guest speaker made the point that when we just do what God asks, we please Him, just as we please someone with a gift at Christmas if we give them exactly what they ask for instead of something else.
My point to this, is that society as a whole has bowed its knee to the electronic god called the phone/tablet/computer. Electronic pulses of light supersede the Light of the World…Jesus.
People have chosen the phone over building a relationship with Him. That includes those I saw today in church who were more concerned about what their friends were saying in social media than they were what God was trying to tell them in the word…in the message…in the worship.
And we wonder why marital relationships are crumbling? We wonder why things are falling apart around us?
It’s because God is no longer guiding their thoughts, their lives, their opinions, or anything else. The phone and everything it has access to is doing that.
So what do we do? For one, we put the frazzling things down, especially at church or any other time we are trying to worship. I put mine on silent, not vibrate, when I am going to pray. I refuse to allow outside distractions stop that process.
Put them down when you are with your friends, your family, and anyone else who is important to you. Focus on building a relationship with them, and with God…not on what’s the garbage du jour.
If every Christian sets this example, then maybe…just maybe…it will have an impact on society. At the very least, it will teach our children that God is the most important aspect of our lives, not a palm-held device. It breaks the cycle…one family at a time…and it helps establish a better foundation for our futures…their futures.