He asked Siri, his phone’s “assistant,” amusing questions and got back amusing answers: “What is the meaning of life?” Answer: “It’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya.” Or to a factual question: “Siri, What’s the capital of Bolivia?” a factual answer, “LaPaz.”
This entertaining demonstration was only the tip of the iceberg so far as the wonders of his handheld device are concerned. A smart phone can be a timepiece, an email receiver, a global positioning device, a datebook, a newspaper, a YouTube entertainment portal, a hand-held video game, and so much more.
Afterwards I asked myself, if I were a pastor today, how might this tool enhance my ministry? On the other hand, how would I keep its distractions from stealing time I should be spending in ministry to my flock? Surely pastors everywhere must be asking these questions.
Here is how I think I might deal with it.
I would begin by searching regularly for Scripture that would charge me afresh with the stewardship of my calling. For example, early this morning in my assigned Bible reading I was directed to this verse: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
For today’s electronic distractions that portion might be adapted to say, “… whether you text or e-mail, or whatever else you do electronically, do it all for the glory of God.”
Turning further to the Pastoral Epistles this morning I came upon this charge to pastors: “Do your best to present yourselves to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:14). In an age of abundant distractions this is a stunning challenge to the effective management of time and the concentration of studies. Meeting the challenge would require careful management of today’s distractions.
I believe I would follow this Scriptural course, searching for a mandate from the Bible rather than setting before myself a list of self-imposed restraints. The reason? I don’t think my will would be strong enough to withstand the enticements of the electronic era without having an overarching charge I could refer to, sensing that the Lord of the church was issuing the charge.
I believe to whatever scriptural mandate the Lord put before me I would add a search for a fellow minister as an accountability partner on this matter. We would commit to a disciplined use of the internet and the wise use of time. This would be our effort to be careful workmen for the Lord’s sake. We could then work out the details of our commitments together and agree on how we would report to each other.
A program like this, I know, would increase the blessing of the Lord on the ministry of both of us. And we could count on the very real and discernible assistance of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures say, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26), and “the Spirit intercedes for the saints” (Romans 8:27). The Spirit’s enablement would be more effective and empowering than any set of self-motivating rules I might devise.
The era of smart phones and such is upon us and, they are marvellous! Still, their potential as time-wasters is well known and the theft of time from ministry would be a grave offense. As the Spirit assisted, I believe I would give myself in disciplined ministry, looking forward to that great day in view when I would hope to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant …. Come and share your master’s happiness.” (Matthew 25:21)