Smart phones in church

smart phone in church

At my Friday morning men’s Bible study recently, I saw someone looking at his smart phone and running his finger down the screen.

I thought, “That’s rude.  He’s checking email during my Bible study.”

But then, a couple of seconds later, he spoke up and said, “I found another translation that gives a slightly different meaning.”

So, he hadn’t been reading email after all.  He was using his smart phone app to look up our scripture reading in other translations.  And his insight turned out to be surprisingly good.

Another story.

I regularly listen to the podcasts of a well-known preacher, and I was surprised a while back to hear him say at the beginning of his sermon, “Let’s take out our tablets or smart phones, and turn to Luke’s Gospel.”  No Bibles in the pew racks at his church!

One more story about the phenomenon of electronic communication in church.

A few weeks ago, I went back to my office after the last morning service, and before packing up my laptop I checked my email inbox.  Sure enough, there was something, but I knew that the sender had been in the last service.  She was commenting on my sermon that morning.  How could that be?

I looked more closely at the time the email was sent, and it looked as though it was probably sent during the offering.  After the sermon she had found her smart phone and dashed off a few comments about what I had said.

I’m happy to say her comments were all positive, but … still.

A few years ago, if someone had feedback to offer about my sermons that person would have gone home, thought about it, and possibly wrote it out and dropped it in the mail – what we now call “snail mail.”  I might have seen it by Tuesday at the earliest.

Today I get feedback faster than I might be ready to hear it.

What do I think about all of this?  I’m not sure.  But here’s the thing: my opinion doesn’t matter very much.  Nearly everyone is now connected not just occasionally, but … ALL. THE. TIME.

The well-known preacher I mentioned has obviously decided to embrace what’s happening: “It’s here, it’s hip, let’s embrace it.”  I tend to take the “let’s think this through” approach.

But maybe my reluctance here is based on fear.  Do you know what the number one use of electronic devices in worship seems to be?  It’s fact checking.  If I mention a date in history, a book title, or an author, in my sermon, the fact checkers immediately go to work.

And then, at the door after worship, I’ll often hear what Wikipedia has to say about it.

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


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3 Responses to Smart phones in church

  1. Don Wagner February 14, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    Regardless of the reason, Doug, other than an emergency, the use of a smart phone
    during worship is not appropriate and rude. It seems we should be able to focus entirely
    on the worship of God during the service, not on texting, etc. For what it’s worth, I have
    asked students to leave class because they can’t stay off the smart phone during a lecture or test. I’d be interested in knowing what church is using smart phones and I-pads in place of bibles.


    • Doug February 14, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

      Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, Seattle

  2. Cindy B February 15, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    I have also seen Pastor Price Jr. on the TV ministry “Ever Increasing Faith” use the Ipad. His father will use the Bible but the son (I’d say late 30 or early 40) always uses the I-Pad. There are people in his congregation that also follow him during his sermon on their I-pad.

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