Through the years I have really enjoyed reading books together with my fellow Elders and Pastoral Staff at FBCG. We try to do this together twice a year with an extended staff meeting which includes a detailed discussion of the book followed by lunch. These times have brought about good connections and conversations for life and ministry. Recently, we read together, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Crossway, 2017) by Tony Reinke, and I was really challenged by the message of this book and want to share some insights in the next few posts.
Reinke provides a theological and practical analyses of what the editors of Time magazine have called the most influential gadget in human history, the smartphone. For this blog series, I would like to share some “take-aways” from Reinke’s efforts that may be helpful in how you relate to your smartphone.
#1- This is not a Pharisaical treatment of smartphone ownership. Reinke does not imply with legalistic snobbery that if you were spiritual you wouldn’t even own a smartphone. He argues persuasively that technology is no cosmic accident as the Creator sovereignly guides history. Reinke asks deeper questions that go to the heart of how we use our devices.
For instance, he poses the question, “Should I ditch my smartphone?” followed by twelve thoughtful questions that lead to considerations like cost, necessity of certain phone features, unhealthy fixation on the phone, and effects on family time and relationships.
John Piper who wrote the forward of the book identifies the key for the Christian in any generation, “If you live long enough, pray earnestly, and keep your focus on the imperishable Word of God, you can be spared the slavery to newness.” Reinke points believers to the need for “new life disciplines birthed from a new set of life priorities and empowered by our new life freedom in Jesus Christ.” I appreciated this approach to decision-making in the Christian life which I believe is helpful with many other applications on what I should do and not do, go or not go, own or not own.
#2- Reinke brings helpful research revealing how invasive smartphone use has become.I know we probably do not need research to confirm what is self-evident by causal cultural observance. We are a culture consumed by cellphone usage. Reinke notes that we check our smartphones about 81,500 times each year, which works out to about every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives, which means you will be tempted to check your phone at least once before finishing this blog post.
His discussion on digital distractions was convicting as many of us push away work and responsibility with online drifting that takes us off task. The average American college student wastes 20 percent of class time tinkering on a digital device, doing things unrelated to class. This applies across the business sector as well. He quoted historian Bruce Hindmarsh who said,
“Our spiritual condition today is one of spiritual ADD.” Reinke argues that this unchecked distraction is not harmless as it blinds the soul from God; closes off communion with God; and mutes urgency of God in our lives. Therefore, believers need to learn to be efficient in distraction management for the sake of the spiritual health.
#3- Texting and driving is not loving your neighbor as Scripture commands. With great insight, he makes the case for how fixation on our cellphones creates neglect of flesh and blood. With regard to phone use and driving, he points out, “Talking on the phone while driving a vehicle makes you four times more likely to get into an accident, but texting while driving makes your chance of a crash twenty-three times more likely. Assuming a driver never looks up in the average time it takes to send a text (4.6 seconds), at fifty-five miles per hour, he drives blindly the length of a football field.”Wow and ouch!
Texting while driving is insane as it expresses disregard for our neighbor. We are saying that we really don’t need our hands and concentration to operate our vehicles safely. Texting while driving is reckless behavior that puts others in danger, and thereby we are not obeying a basic commandment of Scripture to love our neighbor as ourselves. Therefore, Reinke concludes, “We sin with our phones when we ignore our street neighborhood strangers who share with us the same track of pavement.”
Hope this was a helpful challenge that would urge you to read the book. More to come in the coming weeks. Running the race with you, Hebrews 12:1-3.