two young african people people using their mobile phonesLike most of you, I’ve had a cell phone for years. But I’m old enough to remember rotary dial phones and party lines. Back then, the idea of a wireless phone was pure fantasy, something you’d see on the Jetson’s or a Dick Tracy cartoon. I’m told that the computing power of the average cell phone today far exceeds what NASA had at its disposal to take Apollo 11 to the moon and back! And with that computing power, the cell phone has evolved way past merely serving as a telephone. We can text, FaceTime, send emails, and hold virtual meetings with people all over the world. The cell phone is truly an amazing device for communicating.

But there is a downside to cell phones. Go to any coffee shop, airport, or transit system and look around at the people there. They all have their eyes glued to a cell phone or other device. And this practice isn’t confined to public places. Recently, I was at a family gathering, and looking around, I realized that everyone in the room, representing three generations, was looking down at their cell phones! Instead of engaging in conversation with each other, everyone in the room was distracted by their phones and hindering real communication. I’ve even seen people in the same room texting each other instead of talking with each other. I wonder if our cell phones are even getting in the way of spending time with the Lord in prayer. A little device with so much potential for expanding our ability to communicate may be more of a hindrance than a help to communicating with each other and building meaningful relationships.

I’m not suggesting we get rid of our cell phones, but that we focus on cultivating real, personal communication when we’re with other people. An emoji is not the same as a warm smile with eye contact and kind words spoken.

We’re several months into the coronavirus stay-at-home order as I write this. We’ve been “attending” church and our small group virtually and I’ve got to tell you, virtual is a very poor substitute for the real thing. Jesus was so intentional about face-to-face human connections that He even broke with the culture and touched those with leprosy and other diseases to express His love. Keep your cell phone, but let’s get real with our relationships and communicating with those around us.

Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:12-17

Personal Application: Some have found it helpful to place a basket at the door in which people leave their cell phones while getting together. This isn’t about rule-setting but about values. Take stock of when and where you use your cell phone. Focus on personal, face-to-face interaction whenever possible.

Jim Grassi image and signature  Jim Grassi, D. Min.

We cherish any verse in Scripture that reminds us to keep focused and intentional about evangelism and discipleship. “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5