social media

10 Ways Phones Can be Used for Our Good and God's Glory

Am I the only who feels this way? I wondered for the umpteenth time. I was in the midst of a conversation with friends lamenting their iPhones. The complaints were familiar: our smartphones make us more self-focused, short-tempered, less able to interact with real people, eager for the approval of others, unable to read and communicate in-depth. The woes are limitless.

And I don’t disagree. I too have given over too much power to my phone. It has shaped me in a number of ways I’m not proud of.

But my secret thought in that conversation and others like it is this: I like my phone. I think it’s more helpful than hurtful—even (maybe especially) in my spiritual disciplines. Am I a fool to say I think it has actually aided gospel growth in my life?

In our effort to distance ourselves from the pitfalls of these devices, are we missing what a blessing they can be?

BRAND NEW TECHNOLOGY, SAME OLD PROBLEM

Throughout history, people have sounded the alarm every time some new technology hits the scene:

  • Socrates worried writing would cause our minds to grow lazy;

  • There were cries of information overload and chaos when the printing press was invented;

  • The distribution of newspapers caused concern that people would no longer get their news directly from the pulpit;

  • Worried parents thought that teaching reading in schools would certainly wreak havoc on the minds of their children;

  • Later generations worried the advent of radio and television would wreak havoc on their children’s ability to read.[1]

Today, you can’t go on the Internet without seeing headlines bemoaning the connectivity and technology of this age, too. Those concerns are valid. Certainly, we should not consume new technology without carefully examining the ramifications.

Paul’s warning to the Ephesians is useful for us: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).

THE CAPACITY FOR GOOD AND EVIL

Just as the printing press can print the Word of God or pornography, our phones can deliver good or evil. With the Holy Spirit’s help and the accountability of a Christian community (and perhaps the implementation of some digital boundaries), we can choose to use our phones for our edification and sanctification, rather than for our destruction.

Our phones can be put to work to help us to obey this command in our current age: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8).

They can help us find wisdom and gain understanding, which is a blessing (Prov. 3:13). They can help us “do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Thess. 5:15).

10 WAYS PHONES CAN BE USED FOR OUR GOOD AND GOD’S GLORY

The following are ten ways smartphones can be tools for our good and even God’s glory.

1. Hearing the Bible. Perhaps the most important way our phones can help sanctify us is by providing the Word of God through various Bible apps. While paper Bibles should not be replaced, Bible apps can provide customized daily reading plans, nourishment in a pinch, and add oomph to our quiet times. As I make my way through my Bible-in-a-Year plan, my app audibly reads along with me. In this way, not only am I reading the Word of God in my physical Bible, but I’m also hearing it as I go. This is especially helpful to me in the early morning when my mind is prone to wander.

2. Memorizing Scripture with voice memos. Storing God’s Word in our hearts (Ps. 119:11) is a sweet tool for sanctification. Using a voice memo app can greatly enhance Scripture memory. Reciting memorized portions into our phones allows us to immediately check our work against the written Word. The immediate feedback is excellent for catching mistakes and ensuring we rightly memorize Scripture.

3. Reading more books. Various apps allow us broad access to more books than in any other age. It’s normal today to travel frequently and commute long distances. That potentially wasted time can be redeemed as we listen to or read books we could not access prior to our smartphones. I am deeply indebted to Christian authors whose words have shaped me and library apps that have made wide reading affordable.

4. Growing through Christian blogs and websites. Smartphones allow us to access Christian blogs (like this one) and websites every day. Having the Internet in the palm of our hands allows us to wrestle with even deep theological issues at a moment’s notice. Whereas we would have needed to make a trip to a seminary library in the past, we can now immediately peruse a variety of sites and articles to help us gain commentary on a given Bible passage, theme, or difficulty.

5. Listening to a wide range of teachers and preachers. Many disciples find podcasts and sermons invaluable for growth and learning. Podcast topics vary widely from hearing news from a Biblical worldview to theological discussions, encouragement for moms to the history of racial issues in the church, and wisdom for Christian living. Access to a wide range of preachers and teachers from multiple theological backgrounds helps us keep growing both inside and outside our typical doctrinal bubbles.

6. Connecting with friends and family. Depending on one’s life stage or calling, texting can be a lifeline for Christian fellowship. Missionaries serving overseas, pastors or their wives reaching out to friends in their shoes in another city, or even new moms who need encouragement but don’t have time to meet or call a friend, can all benefit from receiving and sending encouraging texts. In our global, busy lifestyles, texting allows us to type out our prayers for one another. It can be a sweet and intimate way to keep in touch and build one another up.

7. Remembering names, prayer needs, and important dates. Phones can be a practical assistant, helping us practice hospitality on Sundays when we gather for corporate worship. We can immediately record the name of a newcomer to church right after we shake their hands. We can refresh our memories the following Sunday and greet them by name, making a warm and inviting impact. We can have our phones handy to record someone’s prayer request so we don’t forget it as soon as they walk away. Additionally, alarms can be set on our calendar apps to help us remember to pray for a surgery, an important test, or other need in our community.

8. Accessing special groups. While it’s no substitute for face-to-face friendship, Facebook can provide access to specific groups and ministries around the world. I’ve been able to connect with other adoptive parents, missionaries, ex-pats, and Christian women wherever I have lived around the world. These special niche relationships haven’t been available near me at certain times, and the online alternatives have been a source of strength and encouragement. Additionally, we can keep up with missionaries in various contexts through their secret online groups, which provide updates and prayer needs.

9. Understanding your community. Social media apps allow us to know what others in our communities are drawn to or hoping for. Based on others’ posts and what they’re chatting about, we can keep a finger on the pulse of what matters to those who attend our church, Bible study, or neighborhood fellowship. In this way, we can be better prepared for false teaching or false gospels when they arise, or fads that aren’t biblical. Social media allows us to be prepared in advance and contribute a gospel-centered voice to a conversation that might otherwise lack it.

10. Building one another up. Group texts are the way young adults communicate. Rarely do people call one another or use email. Texts are the best way to stay abreast of what is happening in the lives of our community members. Texts can be an excellent way to share joys and sorrows and prayer needs. They’re also a great way to coordinate group meetings, meals for people in need, and more. It’s nearly impossible to stay involved in relationships today without texting.

There is indeed a way to use our phones that will help us “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

Smartphones can be a powerful tool for our growth. Let’s consider how we might put them to work for our good and God’s glory.


[1] I am indebted to this article for this historical information. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2010/02/dont_touch_that_dial.html

Jen Oshman is a wife and mom to four daughters, and has served as a missionary for nearly two decades. She and her husband serve with Pioneers International and planted Redemption Parker, an Acts 29 church. Her passion is leading women into a deeper faith and fostering a biblical worldview. Her book, Enough About Me: Find Lasting Joy in the Age of Self, is forthcoming with Crossway in 2020. Read more of Jen’s writing on her website or follow her on Twitter.

Killing Social Glory-Seeking Hearts

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“We didn’t seek glory from people.” Or did we?

One of the darkest dangers of the Christian life is the pursuit of praise. We want people to affirm and recognize us for who we are, what we have accomplished, and the results of our efforts. Perhaps rightly so.Our culture at large gives renown and praise to celebrities for who they are, what they have accomplished and the things they have produced. We taught that if you want your life to matter, you have to have people pay attention.

Our culture at large gives renown and praise to celebrities for who they are, what they have accomplished, and the things they have produced. We taught that if you want your life to matter, you have to have people pay attention.

Disciples devour and dwell on the things of God found in the Scriptures. We pray. We kill sin in our lives. We serve others.

Consider the incessant reality of social media today. Masked as a vehicle with which to share your life with your “friends” these channels have become self-glorifying platforms in which we project ideal versions of ourselves for the world to like, favorite, and adore.

Forbes Magazine reported a recent study from the University of Houston that found that the “highlight reels” of social media were linked to higher rates of depression among users. Our social comparison of each other creates a culture in which everyone seeks to be the celebrity.

Even think about the videos that have gone viral across social media platforms. We call it “transparency,” but it is a kind of voyeurism and narcissism that causes a couple to share live on video everything from their kids spilling milk at breakfast to a heated argument, to the sad realization that she has just had a miscarriage. All of this to get clicks, likes, shares, and a social platform of celebrity.

We are seeking glory from people!

So how do we overcome this sort of glory seeking? Paul, writing to the Thessalonian church in one of his first letters sought to demonstrate this sort of challenge that he himself faced, and the remedy for that sort of glory seeking.

In a high charged socially-aware and omnipresent world today, we have to think through how to defuse our social-glory-seeking-selves. Paul gives us three remedies to the illness of social-glory-seeking.

We Live in Gentleness Among the World

In the context of Paul’s ministry he is speaking of the way in which he and his missionary team conducted themselves among the new believers there in Thessalonica. The paradigm he uses is that of a mother and her small infant child. He describes his relationship with the people there as, “gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thess 2:7).

Set in opposition to the glory-seeking orators and thinkers of Paul’s day he postured himself as someone who would hardly be celebrated or recognized in the world—a nursing mother.

Most mothers I know don’t get a lot of platform and social praise for the labor they do in raising children. Gentle mothers aren’t usually lifted up in our culture as the kinds of people that we should aspire to be. They aren’t the paragons of society, influence, and renown. Yet this posture should be the very first posture if we are to kill a social-glory-seeking virus among us.

You can’t build a platform or make much of yourself when you’re busy being present with people and listening to them. Pastors and ministry leaders who embody this don’t get to Instagram and selfie their every counseling conversation, tear-filled pleading for repentance, broken-hearted funerals, and hours of labor alone in a study listening to and pondering over the Word of God.

These kinds of leaders often do most of their work without Twitter announcing to the world their efforts, or a live-stream, webinar conversation with empowered leaders and entrepreneurial dynamos. The social-glory-seekers get those. This kind of leader humbly, gently works among his people feeding, shepherding, and loving them.

We Yearn For The Good of Others

Paul says that a second remedy to the heart illness of social-glory-seeking is the compassionate longing for the good of others. He describes his ministry this way, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you…” (1 Thess 2:8).

Paul’s affectionate desire was a deep yearning and ambition for the good of that church. He truly loved them. The context of his ministry there and the conflict, persecution, and strife that befell him as he ministered to the Thessalonians knit their hearts together. As they went through the deep waters of adversity and struggle, they were bound up together in love and compassion.

This affliction-born affection radically changed the perspective of the relationship. We often like to envision Paul’s missionary journeys as being some sort of multi-city tour where he would book a venue, have a big entertaining gathering, amass a crowd, preach the gospel, and see hundreds if not thousands get saved.

He stuck around for a few days with a discipleship class, and then off to the next town to raise up the next evangelistic crusade power-assembly. How wrong we would be. His visit to Thessalonica was anything but that. Acts 17 paints the picture of civil discourse in the Jewish synagogue turned into a violent mob and a harrowing late-night escape to the next town. Nothing self-aggrandizing in this ministry but a beating from jealous religious zealots.

But this affliction-soaked ministry birthed deep love and concern for the good of others. Ministers that care only for the glory of the platform don’t worry themselves with the street-level stuff.

Seeking glory from people means working to make sure that people affirm and like you, not that you care about them. Paul saw the hostility and the rage against the new Christians firsthand in this city, and it moved him to compassion for those people and that city. Social-glory-seeking would count Paul’s work as a loss and a failure. He saw it as a means to love.

  • Pastor, do you care for the good of those in your church?
  • Do you yearn for the fruit of the Spirit to be prevalent among the flock of God?
  • Have you shown up unannounced at the home of a friend who is living in folly to try and wake them out of their stupor?
  • Do you pray with the lonely, elderly, sick, and shut-in? Or do you only care about the “wins” (blasphemous term!) of ministry and celebrate the numbers of success; attendance records and fiscal prosperity?
  • Are you intertwined in the affliction of ministry or just the successes?
  • Or are you busy retweeting the rave reviews of your books, declaring where you’re speaking on the tour next, and the fiscal perks of your work?

Killing the social-glory-seeking heart that is present among the ministerial ranks requires an affectionate yearning and care for the good of others.

We Share Our Lives, Not Just Our Message

No one will say that proclaiming the gospel isn’t necessary, or even important. However, an insidious trap has been set by our enemy. In a social-glory-seeking world we’ve been deceived to believe that our message of the gospel is a product with which we can dispense to the world, build a platform around, and amass a pop following of glory with.

But if we’re not seeking glory from people, why do we act like the stage is the pinnacle place of ministry in the world today?

Paul’s remedy is very different. “We were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess 2:8). For Paul, living in community was essential to defeating the monster of the glory-seeking me.

Sharing lives, not just messages required that people knew him, and that he made himself known. The believers at Thessalonica became part of Paul’s life. He had friends, he had meals with them, he shared everyday stuff of life.

Social-glory-seeking however creates false barriers. It puts out only the best and brightest of our lives for everyone to see. We may feel that we are “sharing our lives” but it’s never our failures, never our sins, never our weaknesses or losses. It’s always our wins. Does anyone really know us?

To kill this kind of glory seeking requires an imbeded-life together. We have to be known; we have to be sharing of ourselves—our joys, our worries, our frustrations, our aspirations, our true selves with others. I worry for leaders and pastors who are not in community life with people in their church.

They don’t express hospitality to the church; they don’t attend or participate in normal small groups; they create bubbles and barriers of protection and circles of trust that isolate them from the crowds, unless everyone see their faults and weaknesses.

Killing Social-Glory-Seeking

I am convinced that the postures of gentleness, affection, and imbeded-life together will keep us from seeking the glory that comes from people. We won’t have time to get caught up in seeking praise.

Instead what will result, especially among pastors and leaders, is hard work that engages the lives of the people in a community and church and the effective advance of the gospel at the street level.

These attitudes will produce a church life that is ripe for revival and gospel-advance. It will bring a contagious movement of the Spirit of God that will produce fruit for generations to come.

It won’t end with a celebrity parade or self-sticked spiking of the ball to tell everyone how great you are. It will conclude with honor, praise, power and glory to the King of all Kings—Jesus.

“For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything” (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

Reflections

  • Pastor, do you care for the good of those in your church?
  • How has social media contributed negatively to your spiritual health? Positively?
  • In what ways have you sought glory from others?
  • How do you overcome the social glory-seeking?

Jeremy Writebol (@jwritebol) has been training leaders in the church for over fourteen years. He is the author of everPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in the Present (GCD Books, 2014) and writes at jwritebol.net. He is the pastor of Woodside Bible Church’s Plymouth, MI campus. 

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