The technological revolution is real and its growth continues to propel us through life at a rate that cannot be grasped by our finite minds. That growth has happened so fast that we are only now starting to comprehend some of the effects technology has upon our ability to think, focus, and interact with others. Tony Reinke writes, “The smartphone is causing a social reversal: the desire to be alone in public and never alone in seclusion.”
(1) This profound observation exposes a modern crusade against deep and meaningful relationships. Such a conflict extends into the many facets of life which necessitate interaction with one another, including our obedience to the Great Commission.
While many of us are content to make excuses for not engaging in evangelism, few of us would argue against the Lord’s directive. Christ’s alpha and omega commands were essentially “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19) and “Go. Be fishers of men” (this one, of course, is my own paraphrase of Matthew 28:19-20). Both the mandate and the authorization to speak truth into the lives of others is made plainly clear for us (cf. 2 Timothy 4:2). Yet, despite the clarity of that principle, the ability to execute the plan is obstructed by our human nature.
Our current propensity and dare I say addiction, to the smartphone now finds itself as one of those hindrances to evangelism. The smartphone has caused us to be always accessible but not always available, resulting in three areas to be on guard against:
- Lack of Interaction: The world passes by while many are staring down at their phones meaning they are less likely to make a connection with those around them.
- Lack of Depth: Even when an interaction occurs, most are so distracted by their phone, the ability to engage at a meaningful level is hindered. What qualifies as substantial conversation and friendship rarely meet the most minimal of definitions and standards.
- Lack of Genuineness: Finally, genuineness and depth are interrelated enough that if one is lacking, the other also lacks. Therefore, the genuineness that comes into a relationship is often lacking because there is no profundity to the relationship.
Because we are so captivated by these handheld devices, our interactions with others are more than hindered, but often considered burdensome. Without the ability to establish connections at a personal level, evangelism cannot exist. In a discussion regarding living productive lives, Cal Newport reminds readers that technology is not inherently evil, but that the threshold for allowing devices and programs access into our lives should be much more stringent than it is
(2). Technology like the smartphone can offer immense value to life, however, it must be leveraged to maximize the benefits while minimizing the detriments. Being vigilant of its impact upon relationships necessitates caution about its impact upon our evangelism. Set it aside long enough to notice those around you and ask with a willingness to respond, “Who needs the gospel?”
(1) Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), Location 2132.
(2) Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016), Page 184.
Robert Zink, Missionary with Biblical Ministries Worldwide