As my wife and I sat in a restaurant sharing dessert, we noticed 3 people sitting opposite us. For much of the time, these 3 people (who appeared to be friends) were more clearly more interested in their phones than each other.
It was strange and disturbing to observe.
I am convinced that social media and new technologies are changing us in subtle yet significant ways. A recent article at Desiring God also touches on just some of these impacts.
Few people recognise when technology has begun to suffocate, so it is particularly refreshing (and challenging) to read of someone who has not only acknowledged the issue, but taken drastic steps to address it.
Case in point – Pastor Britt Merrick.
Britt Merrick is the founder of Reality Church – now with 6 church families across the US. I recently stumbled across a post he wrote, explaining why he doesn't have internet at home, is no longer on social media, and uses a flip phone.
The story begins while the family was in Israel (for his daugher's cancer treatment). He writes:
“We were discovering what for us was a better way of being. Living in the moment and not worrying about posting updates, returning phone calls and emails, checking in on the rest of the world and constantly being entertained. Instead we gave each other and God our full attention. We played games as a family, took long walks, relaxed, played more and prayed more. Our kids, Isaiah and Daisy, were so thankful to always have our full attention and not compete with iPhones and text messages and Kate and I were so happy to be present to each other and God in a brand new way. And though it was challenging at times, we relished the isolation and obscurity that living disconnected in the Middle East afforded us.”
When they returned to the US, they realised that things couldn't remain exactly the same, but they knew that they wanted to pursue a different way of life:
“We have been trying to chart a course that is both faithful to the ministry the Lord has entrusted us with and faithful to the more present, less-connected way of being He has been teaching us. It has not always been easy and there is much to it. I have a flip phone that does not get text messages or go online. We have no internet connection at our house. We are not on social media. There are tweaks and things to figure out along the way but it is going well and has been life giving.”
This new way of living has caused a willingness to “embrace obscurity” and a “fresh love…for the local church”:
“Part of what God has teaching us in being present is to live more simply, smaller and faithfully with those He has put us near. For me, with the platform I have had, that means being willing to decrease and embrace obscurity and crucify ego. Also, the Lord has given me a fresh love, devotion, passion and focus for the local church I am a part of. My goal is to be faithful to my local church and the community and for me to do that, I have to be solely concerned with living with and preaching to them and not others. This is where my sermons no longer being online comes in to play. My sermons will only be made available online to those who attend our local church who will have access through our website via a login password they received at church.”
You can read the full post here.
It's a challenge to many of us, and perhaps especially to pastors.