Some of you will know that I started training to be a vicar this week at Cranmer Hall in Durham. We had an interesting first session on preaching in which we were asked in small groups to create tableaux of ‘my morning congregation’. What struck me about this was that out of 6 tableau scenes we created, 5 had a person on their mobile phone as one of the congregation members.
We discussed each scene created and some questions arose about the mobile phone users:
- is she texting a friend?
- is he reading the bible on his phone?
- is she tweeting the sermon?
- is he playing angry birds?
The answer is, it could be any of the above! One of the lecturers, Prof David Wilkinson commented that 5 years ago when they did the same exercise there were no mobile phones involved. Our Sunday morning experience in church is changing rapidly around us.
How do you feel about the use of mobile phones in church? My feeling is that we should take our cue from Romans 14 and ensure that nothing we do negatively affects a brother or sister’s worship:
Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. – Romans 14: 20-21
Here Paul is talking about problems in the Roman church around food laws – those who ate food that had been dedicated to idols and those who chose not to. Those of us that use our smartphones for more than just texting and calling and who use bible apps and tweet know that this is good and edifying – ‘clean’ if you like. However, that does not mean that we should not be aware that those around us in church may not know that and may interpret our use of a mobile phone as disrespectful or distracting. I wouldn’t want to distract people in church by checking my phone to read the Greek on my bible app if it made all the old ladies behind me tut with disapproval – taking the focus off the preaching of the word and onto my ‘bad’ behaviour.
Perhaps the answer is that if there are enough people in church who are using mobile phones for the right reasons in church could share what they are doing – perhaps in a short interview with the leader of the service to make it clear to everyone that that is what they are doing. The danger comes in jumping to conclusions about what someone is doing in church – you don’t know if they are engaging in worship or doing something else.
I tend to err on the side of caution and don’t get my phone out in church. This is a good discipline for me as well as it is virtually an extension of my arm and so it’s good for me to switch it off now and again.
What do you think? Do you use your mobile in church? Have you had a reaction to your use of phones in church? Let us know in the comments!