In the past year I have purchased a subscription to a magazine titled Modern Reformation. I have found the articles in this magazine well-written, very thought-provoking and even convicting. The latest issue contains two articles that will not let me go. One is titled Distracted by Maggie Jackson and it deals with the fact that the way we live is eroding our capacity for deep, sustained, perceptive attention. In other words, our culture and its gadgets are robbing us of the ability to concentrate and think deeply about the world around us. The second article The Book That Isn’t Really There by John J. Bombaro, deals with the subject of digital texts and declining discipleship. The author makes a compelling case that a digital library on one’s computer or hand-held device is not the same as a library that is made up of real books that fill one’s shelf. He says, “’I downloaded that book’ cannot mean the same thing as ‘I own a copy of that book,’ much less that I have marked it up with marginal notes and made it my own.” He says that the implications for the church are great when people are moving from a printed Bible that they can hold in their hand to a hand-held device with a Bible app.
One quote that ties the two articles together says, “It is not just the technologies; it is the hurry and bustle that blurs what is going on in our lives; it is our inability to see distraction as defined by being pulled to something secondary.”
I realized that I was one of the victims that could be drawn very easily from something that needed my attention to something secondary. For example, I am studying, preparing a sermon, books and Bibles open around me, when, a little bell sounds on my computer signaling the arrival of e-mail. What do I do? Continue my concentrated studies or check the e-mail for something of vital importance, destroying my concentration on hearing God’s voice in that moment for God’s people? My friends, all too often the e-mail has won out, vital e-mail telling me of the Wonder Bra, Viagra, Weight Loss, and other earth-shaking news. But that was not the greatest conviction that pierced my soul.
For the past eighteen months I have enjoyed the use of an iPad. This wonderful little invention allows me to leave a bulky lap top computer behind at times and still access the internet from various locations. It is also something that I use every Sunday when I preach, for it holds my sermon notes. And of course, since I have it I need some apps to go with it, including a Bible app. Not long ago, I began using it instead of my printed Bible while attending the Sunday evening service at Sierra Bible Church. And I have found, just how easy it is to switch from the Bible screen to something else, for just a quick peek, such as, e-mail, Facebook, sports scores, NASCAR results, etc., etc., etc. Or, as the author put it, “…being pulled to something secondary” while there is something primary that is vying for my attention. The Holy Spirit has shown me that leaving the Bible text for another site while Pastor Jesse is preaching is to show the ultimate disrespect for not only Jesse, but also the Lord Jesus who is trying to speak to me through Jesse. I’ve recently returned to my printed Bible on Sunday night, leaving my iPad at home. I extend my apologies to both my Lord and Jesse.
Now, that is not to say that someone like you, who possesses ultimate discipline and is never tempted to surf elsewhere on your hand-held device during the sermon, whether it be a.m. or p.m., but if that temptation does come your way, or these are the little trips you take during the sermon, I would like to invite you to turn off your hand-held device and pick up a printed copy of the Bible in which to follow along, free of world-wide web distractions. If you left your printed Bible at home, we hand out copies of the Bible during every service held at Sierra Bible Church.
One of the buzz words of our day is multi-tasking and it may have its benefits in certain arenas, but when we are attempting to hear from the Lord, be it in our personal devotions and prayer time or when we gather with our family in Christ for worship and exhortation, there, for the greatest benefit, we need to be single-minded in our focus or we may miss God’s still small voice speaking to our hearts when He does speak.