CLERGY CORNER: Away in a Smartphone

Posted on 08 December 2016 by LeslieM

Legend states that ostriches bury their head in the sand when frightened. While this is a myth, we humans have a similar and very real coping mechanism for boredom: We bury our heads in the proverbial sands of technology, namely the smartphone.

Nonetheless, I recognize the significant value of such a device. It is not the enemy. This week, the Life. Church YouVersion Bible App surpassed 250 million downloads worldwide. Now virtually wherever a screen exists there is a way to connect with God’s Word. However, while we have an unprecedented capability to share the Gospel from our smartphone, say for example through social media, there is less sharing of the Gospel story that reveals our brokenness, and need of a savior, and more of the illusion that we’ve got it all together. We don’t need Jesus; we need likes.

Comedian Louis C.K. wisely notes that the cell phone has robbed us of our ability to be still — to be alone. He’s says that’s why when you look around, everyone is texting and driving, which for teenage drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is six times more deadly than driving while intoxicated.

He said, “People are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because people don’t want to be alone for a second.”

How important is it to find times of solitude? Luke 5:16 states that “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” Prior to preaching in Galilee, Jesus woke early and “went out to an isolated place to pray” Mark 1:35. Other times we read that He “prayed to God all night” Luke 6:12. And before He would be betrayed by Judas, Jesus “knelt down and prayed” experiencing such agony that “His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” Luke 22:41; 44. It was in this time alone that Jesus experienced rich and meaningful intimacy with the Father, becoming acutely aware of the needs of the world and gaining the necessary strength needed to fulfill His purpose of rescuing humanity.

What if Jesus had not sought retreat for prayer and neglected — or had been too weak or burnt out — to fulfill His call? Has the light of a screen become a distraction that has darkened our capacity to be the light of the world? Are we so uncomfortable alone — actually desiring distractions — that we’ve become blinded to the needs of those around us—our light covered (Matthew 5:14-16)?

Left unchecked, such distractions cheat us from time alone with God that strengthens us, prevents burnout and invigorates our desire to actively share the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 7:35 Paul challenges us “to do whatever will help [us] serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” Why? Because the stakes are too high to casually dismiss. What are the stakes? If you truly believe in God’s Word, eternal damnation is at stake—everyone from the barista who serves us your cup of joe to the guy who cuts us off in traffic, Scripture states “For the wages of sin is death”—separated from God forever (Romans 6:23).

Famous magician and atheist Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller, after having been approached by an audience member that he felt was genuinely concerned for his eternity, once said, “If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life… how much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

So here we are, with the greatest resource to share this message of everlasting life and we use it to keep our heads buried from the world around us — avoiding the discomfort of being alone. Let us — me included — take a cue from Jesus, that we fight for time alone with the Father recognizing that “life is too short and our purpose to great” (to quote Craig Groeschel) to allow the distractions of smartphone — or whatever our chosen vice — to keep us from being the Body of Christ. Heaven and Hell hang in the balance.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at

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