Yes, you read that correctly; please leave your phone on at my church.
And here is why;
We understand it is very likely your Bible, Hymnal, and primary way to communicate with others, during the service, in a way that will not disrupt others sitting around you.
We understand you may need to receive messages from work, home, or crucial real-life situations.
We understand we will not always 100% hold your attention, but we trust you to veer off into Godly high points elsewhere when we lack or are fulfilling someone else’s primary need at the moment, (feel free to scroll your Bible or even my blog during children’s story if you’re not a child).
We want you to live tweet, key sermon ideas to your followers.
We want you to tag in that you’re at our service/event/outing.
We want you to post pictures and clips of service to Instagram/Snapchat.
We want you to go “Facebook Live” on our fantastic music/worship/or sermon point.
We want you to fact-check us. We do not fear being corrected if we get something wrong.
We want to “grow young”[i] and be accommodating to people who grow up in the digital era, natively unlike some of us.
And last but not least, we trust that you are mature enough to silence your phone and put it on vibrate, all by yourself, without us needing to remind you like you’re a child continually. Besides, if we are wrong on this last point, we are pretty sure that the little old lady at the end of your pew who will glare you down will be ample enough motivation to only make that mistake once!
Multiple translations, source Biblical languages, entire volumes of Bible dictionaries and commentaries; what Pastor in their right mind would not want their members to have that in their pocket?
Nothing is more insulting, to those raised in the digital age, than to be told to turn their phones off. If you were not raised in that era, you might not understand you are rude and offensive to people if you stand in front of them and tell them to shut off their phone at the start of your service.
I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Come on, this is God’s house, can’t they at least put it away for worship?” Well, you might as well tell them to shut off their brains and accept anything you say, take no notes, use no Bible, and not engage with your presentation at all. Pew Research showed as far back as 2015, 92 % of Americans had cell phones. 90% said they use them consistently for regular daily tasks, and over 31% said they never shut them off with has high as a whopping 45% saying they rarely ever shut them off! Not to mention that 89% of people use their cellphone at regular social engagements[ii]. Like it or not, it is the world we live in. Do you want to, purposely, tune out and turn off 42-92% percent of the average persons sitting in our pews? Is this your church growth plan?
Look, people are not sitting in your pews watching Netflix, playing games, or visiting naughty sites! 45% report they use their phone to post images and video of gatherings[iii], well over 100 Million users in the US have the Bible on their phone as of 2017, and 66% of those bible app users use that app in church [iv]. And yet sadly, one poll reports that only 19% of people feel ok to admit that they use their phone in church [v]! That is way too much shame for such a practical use of a phone!
Is your church small and dying? Because of 44% of churches that have an average attendance of more than 250 use Twitter (which is among the least used platforms for churches) and 45-60% of church emails are opened on smartphones[vi]! And over 70% of your “competitors” offer free wifi to church attendees. Over 54 % of all young adults prefer to get religious research outside of church online (podcast, videos, blogs)[vii].
Many will still read this and think I am compromising; I am too progressive, I am one of those worldly pastors, I care more about filling pews then upholding standards. To all you critics I only have this to say, “When was the last time you read a scroll of parchment?” Come on, what are you a liberal? Oh, you compromised! The early church kept all its writings, not in a book, but on spools of scrolls. Where are your handwritten manuscripts? Oh right, the world forever changed on 22 October 1454 when the Gutenberg press starting cranking out Bibles. Well, guess what, it was turned upside down again June 29, 2007, when Apple started cranking out the first iPhones. As Brady Shearer and his trusty sidekick, Alex Mills, from Pro Church Daily Youtube Channel, like to constantly remind us, we are navigating, “the biggest communicating shift we have seen in over 500 years.” Therefore, with humor, I say, unless you have your scroll collection handy, “Judge not your brother’s smartphone until you get your own scroll out of your eye!”[viii]
If your church is shaming you over cellphone usage you should do something calm, practical and level-headed about it. No, don’t bother trying to teach old dogs new tricks, do something way more impacting, like please come to my church instead[ix], at least until they are ready to grow up and engage your value in the body for the cause of Christ.
Postscript: Like my sermons, no trees were killed in the publishing of this article. It really is a new era for the church. Check your calendar, look in the mirror, and ask yourself what did a tree ever do to you, that you need to ruthlessly murder it for no reason? 🙂