As I grew up, my family attended church each Sunday morning. I normally stopped by the church library between Sunday School and worship to pick up a book, and then slouched down on a pew with my two best friends —- one of whom was the pastor’s son —- to read illicitly during the sermon.
Today children (and adults) can read —- and much more —- with smartphones and tablets. They are convenient but can be annoying to others.
While it is a fun and occasionally surprising diversion to match a raucous ringtone to the person that owns it, that out-of-place noise will interrupt everyone’s thoughts at once.
And we’re attracted to bright lights. Especially in a dimmed setting, a lighted screen can be like carrying a lightsaber.
What are the benefits? Consider these possibilities:
• LiveChurch.tv introduced the YouVersion Bible app (Bible.com) in 2008. Of the multitude of Bible apps, this one leads the pack with close to 125 million downloads to date in all platforms. It offers more than 600 Bible translations (including audio Bibles) in more than 400 languages.
Other features include the ability to bookmark passages and to take and share notes. Outside the church, you can use it to start a reading or devotional plan from three days to a year.
• Evernote is a free app for Mac and Android. It allows you to not only take notes like YouVersion, but also to organize your documents —- and much more.
• Many churches now offer electronic giving by signing up for services permitting automatic withdrawal via mobile, web or text. It beats trying to write a check at the last minute while the offering plates are passed.
• Churches can also utilize real-time polling to permit immediate feedback. PollEverywhere, for instance, works wirelessly and is free to use for up to 40 responses.
• Social media apps can share worship beyond the church walls. Sharing your location on Facebook tells others of your church involvement. Twitter allows you to share pictures and sermon quotes.
• YouVersion’s Bible App for Kids and other children’s apps can be used for quizzes, games, verse memorization and interacting with the Bible in new ways. An example is a friend’s moving image taken during a candlelight service.
“So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices,” Psalm 81:12 says. While it takes some really crummy exegesis to make that apply to electronic devices, you can take steps to be less of a distraction to others in worship.
Noise distractions can be eliminated by setting devices to vibrate, or by installing an app such as the free Silent Time (Android) to schedule regular times to silence your phone, such as weekly worship.
Reduce light distractions by adjusting the brightness settings.
Also ask yourself if your devices are keeping you from meaningful worship. Avoid the temptation to text, check scores or chase rabbits online by downloading a translation, then setting your device to airplane mode to operate without accessing the Internet.
Learn how to use apps before launching them in worship and avoid the aggravation of trying to find a Scripture or taking notes. Don’t use a Bible app at the expense of not seeing Scripture in context or just making notes on paper or in a margin.
Consider if you can wait until later to share a quote on social media.
Worshipping God is an expression of our faith. Let’s use every tool at our disposal.
Ken Satterfield is advertising and marketing coordinator for Word&Way.