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Your digital discipler

Jun 2, 2022

Once a week, my phone gives me a notification that makes me feel a moment of guilt, before I forget all about it. Maybe you get the same notification on your phone. It’s my weekly screen time. It’s that regular reminder about how much I’m connected to my phone; how much it effects and shapes my life.

Apart from your job or course, think about how much time you’re on a device each week. A recent survey in the US found that podcasts, games, news sites, social media, streaming entertainment, and other forms of media can account for upwards of 90 hours of your week. Compare that amount of time with how much you spend each week at church, in a small group, reading your bible or a Christian book, or speaking with a Christian friend. Compare the amount of time that you’re getting discipled by other Christians, to how much time you’re getting discipled by your device.

The reality is that we get shaped by what we read, watch, and listen to. Our values, priorities, habits, and worldview are always being shaped by our influences.

Our values, priorities, habits, and worldview are always being shaped by our influences.

This Sunday, we’ll learn that Paul tells the Colossians, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things… Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (3:2, 16). Paul encourages us to set our minds on the right things – to think about Jesus and to be shaped by his word.

So, how does this effect our screen time? Let me make two suggestions.

First, you’re going to use your devices, so be intentional with how your devices disciple you. What are your screen habits training your heart to long for? Make adjustments accordingly. Set accountability software so that you don’t look at questionable material. Ask yourself whether your news outlets, social media, and streaming entertainment are consistently undermining your faith and holiness. Paul tells the Colossians to “Put to death… whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry…” and “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (3:5, 12).

Second, get community input. Talk with other Christians about what to watch, read, and listen to. Find out about the shows, websites, and podcasts that are thoughtful, helpful, and spiritually edifying. In a digital world saturated with content, we don’t need more information. We need more wisdom.

A recommendation: Megan and I have recently started watching a multi-season series on the life of Jesus called ‘The Chosen’ (it’s freely available from its website and app). Whilst there are some things about it that I could quibble with, it’s managed to avoid much of the cringe of evangelical productions. The series focusses on individual encounters with Jesus, as people are confronted with his identity and teachings. In these times of anxiety, the hope Jesus offers is greatly needed. ‘The Chosen’ reminds us beautifully of that hope.

Alex McCoy
Vicar

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