It only takes a click. Or a tap. It is so easy to grab the smart phone and go into another world. Unlike a book that requires your mind to fill in the blanks, sounds and sights bombard us with tragic news clips, acrobatic kittens, and amazing displays of human talent. While it is debatable as to how much this has improved the lives of modern people, one thing is certain. Spiritual growth requires more than a click. It requires a discipline and intentionality that our new media habits abhor. Whether shopping Amazon or surfing Facebook, immediate access to what we want is what we get. But, is all technology bad for our spiritual growth? What technology helps or hinders my spiritual growth?
Is Your Tech Hindering Your Spiritual Growth?
Before we make comparisons of the good, bad, and ugly of technology in our spiritual walk, lets define some clear markers of spiritual growth. In Ephesians 4:12 the Apostle Paul says that our leaders are “…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” (NRSV) Unity of the faith involves our mature treatment of each other and our cooperation with the Holy Spirit as we play our part in building each other up. One who grows spiritually usually is marked by at least three practices–how we engage in our God-given gifts in ministry, how we embrace truth and purity, and how we treat each other.
The single most toxic effect of technology to our spiritual growth is its dominance of our attention. Click To Tweet
Am I being hindered by technology? The negatives are not too hard to find. What advertisers on TV, Google, Facebook and app games like Candy Crush entice us for is our attention. The value here to the creators of online content is a sale, an in-app purchase, or even our endorsement. How does this effect my life? When my eyes and ears live in the virtual world, the time for contemplation and reflection is thin. Also, I miss out on the needed presence with people who may provide meaningful community. I can’t grow if what I am consuming keeps me from putting my attention on those around me. The single most toxic effect of technology to our spiritual growth is its dominance of our attention. Honestly, how busy am I when it comes to time to serve on a church volunteer team? With DVRs and on-demand viewing it seems I don’t have to miss my favorite show, ever! Or, is it even more subtle than that. Can I cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s prompting to meet a person in a waiting room if my mind is occupied with Angry Birds or cute kittens?
While we can see the dark side of technology to our personal growth in Christ, there are positive effects as well. For one, I have access to real people regardless of the time of day or location. If I choose, I can pray for someone by simply sending a short text or a tweet or a note in whatever format I choose. Recently, I was able to show generosity to a family in need through a crowd-funding site. On Facebook, private groups for prayer and accountability exist. With video chat tools like Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts we can meet with people from all over the world for partnership in ministry and for training. There is no limit to how we can encourage each other with technology! The best thing about technology for my growth is that I can connect to people and foster relationships like never before. Other obvious pluses include the fact that I can read the Bible, have it read to me, or find study notes even from a smart phone. Have I encouraged someone today that I know needs it? Have I given my attention to things that inspire me or build others up?
What’s Your Intention?
One question can turn things around for us. How am I using the technology tools in front of me with intentionality? While there are negatives and even dangers with technology’s access into our hearts and minds, if we are strategic it may actually help us in our spiritual growth. After all, the Bible itself was written on the technology of pen and paper and then transported and spread on the technology of roads the ancient Roman Empire maintained. Later, the Bible was printed on a printing press—a technology that spurred a historically pivotal event called The Reformation. Technology seems then to be only an extension and amplification of humanity. For this reason, the better we learn use it personally to form our spiritual lives the more prepared we are for today as well as the future. So, there is one warning here. It is only when we are passive that technology hinders our spiritual growth. What will you allow to grab your attention today?