Stuff you should know: How to use digital devices for good
No device in history has impacted our lives as much as the smartphone. Most people pick up their smartphones every 12 minutes. Phones have changed how we communicate with each other, how we shop, how we entertain ourselves, how we travel, and much more. You don’t need to be a cultural critic to know some of these changes haven’t been good. Smartphones can be a time-waster but they also can be a tool for God’s purposes. Being a disciple in today’s digital world isn’t about ignoring technology. It’s about learning to use it for good.
Bottom line: When I’m intentional with my device, I can improve my life.
Something To Talk About:
Here are five ways you can use your smartphone to pursue God’s purposes.
- We can use our phones to express our worship: God told us how to worship Him. We’re to do it “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24 NCV). But He didn’t tell us where to worship Him. We can and should worship Him anywhere and everywhere. Smartphones can help us do that. We can listen to worship music in our cars, in our offices, and at the gym. Of course, worship is much more than just music. Every activity can be transformed into an act of worship when you do it for the praise, glory, and pleasure of God. When church members give to their church through their smartphones, they express worship to God. Doing so is just as much of an act of worship as placing their giving in an offering plate at church.
- We can use our phones to encourage fellowship with other believers: We usually think of smartphones as something that breaks the connection between people because we’re spending too much time staring at screens. But the opposite can also be true. Our smartphones can help us build relationships—if we use them well. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 gives us another way to respond: “Encourage each other and build each other up” (NLT). We should spend our time on social media encouraging others rather than tearing them down. In fact, the best time to encourage others on social media, via text, or any other way is when you’re discouraged. God will multiply what you give others, so when you encourage others, you’ll be encouraged in return.
- We can use our phones to enhance our spiritual growth: You can find hundreds of phone apps to help you grow spiritually—including Bibles, Bible studies, sermons, etc. You can use any of those apps to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 NCV). The challenge is making it a daily priority. You can’t grow physically on one meal a week, and you can’t grow spiritually by getting in the Word just once a week either.
God has given us tools like smartphone apps that can help us bring God’s Word into everyday life. We can study the Bible on our daily commute. We can read the Bible when we’re in line at the grocery store.
- We can use our phones to expand our ministry: We need to begin thinking about our smartphones as a place where we can serve others.
Think about how often we come to social media looking for what we can get out of it. Next time someone wants to argue with you on social media, don’t argue with them; pray for the person instead. Ask yourself, “How can I minister to this person?” David didn’t have social media in his day, but he asked himself this question: “How can I repay the Lord for all the good that he has done for me?” (Psalm 116:12 GW). Think of all that God has given you. Thanks to social media, you have wider access to pray for and serve others if you take advantage of it.
- We can use our phones to extend our witness: When Jesus told His followers in Acts 1:8 to be His witnesses in places around the world, it wasn’t even possible for them to do that easily. Today, you don’t need to leave your home to be a witness for Christ. You can sit in your comfy chair and in your pajamas and share the Good News about the Lord, and it can reach the entire globe. Every person in your congregation can do this. We carry a tool with a global reach in our pockets. No other generation of believers in history has had that opportunity.
- Can you remember a time or event where you thought, “It seems that our smartphones have taken over our interactions with each other”? What was happening?
- Social media and tech companies have your attention as their goal. What things do they do to try to keep your attention on your smart devices?
- Of the six hazards of digital tools: wasting time, being seduced by the world’s values, being drawn into unproductive arguments, being tempted to compete and show off, becoming addicted to the approval of others, and being distracted from what is important, what are the top two in your option and why?
- How would you describe where the line of healthy phone time ends and where unhealthy begins? Is it a time limit? Behavior? Neglecting responsibilities? Our phones waste our time.
- How can modern technology’s instant gratification, and distractions distort the life God wants us to experience? Where do these things specifically threaten our walk as Christians?
- Technology can distort our sense of significance and offer a weak substitute for meeting our needs apart from God. How can we protect our primary pursuit of God while utilizing tech for its many advantages? In what ways can tech be used to bolster our pursuit of God? Have you seen tech benefit your walk with God in any significant ways?
- How can we help each other maintain the healthiest tech habits in our day-to-day lives?
- What fears do you have about technology? What excites you about technological advancements?
- Describe the influence you have seen social media make on our society. How has the increased use of social media changed our family dynamics, friendships, and daily routines?
- Will you put into practice what you’ve learned today?
Take One Thing Home with You:
For all the good your smartphone can do, it is a good idea to take a break from it once in a while. A recent study indicates that 79 percent of smartphone users aged 18-44 have their phone on or near them for almost the entire day and 67 percent catch themselves checking for messages, alerts, or calls even when they don’t notice their phone ringing. The focus on the phone is not the issue: what you are not doing while on the phone is. We can be so consumed by what is trending on Twitter that we miss God speaking to us. An occasional “phone fast” may be the answer. Fasting helps us turn away from harmful things because it helps us to appreciate good things more and to recognize the blessings that we might have been overlooking. Smartphones need not only be a source of distraction in our lives. Like just about everything else in the world, they can serve as a sacrament of God’s love… if we use them well.