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(Part 152)


February 20, 2016

Today we face very challenging times for the life of society and even for Christian communities. Our time, especially for the youth, is preoccupied with the Internet and social media. While these can be very useful even for mission, they also pose serious distractions, helping to diffuse our focus on the more important matters at hand, especially in our day-to-day Christian lives.

For us in CFC-FFL, in household meetings, service meetings, teaching events, assemblies, pastoral dialogues, etc., the cell phone has become ubiquitous. It is often there by one’s side, ready to be glanced at or taken hold of every now and then. Such moves of course distract from the interaction that is supposed to be happening between or among those who are present.

So one of the biggest challenges to evangelization and to community life, believe it or not, is the rapid advance of social media (it has a lot of positives of course). One reason is because friends and brethren are now in touch with each other in many ways and at all times, including actually seeing and interacting with each other from a distance. So it can weaken the need to come together for a few hours, for example, for a household meeting, especially considering the hassles of traffic (like Manila) or long distances (like California).

Further, the use of smart phones and other gadgets has become addicting. Do not many of our brethren constantly look at their cell phones during household meetings and service meetings? No, not during breaks, but during the discussions! In fact, I see many brethren, including leaders, have the cell phones on the desk in front of them, but not their Bibles. To paraphrase Jesus' saying, "You cannot serve God and your smart phone."

Here then is my suggestion[1]: No use of cell phones, iPads or other such devices in households[2] and service meetings (unless of course you are presenting with a PP).[3] For the household, from the time you enter the host's home, fellowship starts, so focus on the brethren. For service meetings, when you arrive, focus on fellowship and chitchat. Get back to your cellphone only when the household or service meeting ends and you are already in your car (for the household) or have said goodbye (for the service meeting). No cheating, like checking your messages when you go to the toilet (one thing we are doing is helping cure your addiction!). We give this time to the Lord and to the brethren. We focus and are not distracted.

You say you are not addicted. Then prove it to the Lord. Again to paraphrase Jesus: "Could you not focus on me for one hour (family meal) or two hours (household meeting) or three hours (service meeting)?" Such focus should not just be when we are at Eucharistic adoration (very few do that regularly), but during the times when we are supposed to focus on God and be formed and guided by Him. Wait, I just had a horrible thought: might some of our brethren, during their prayer time or Bible reading, have the phone beside them and occasionally glance at it or answer calls or beeps? Oh my Lord.

Putting on silent mode is not acceptable. Turn the thing off! It is not just about checking your messages or whatever, but also being distracted by a phone call. The only acceptable reason for putting a phone on silent mode (versus turning it off) is for those who expect an emergency phone call (like a doctor or like some nurses in the USA who are required to be on standby mode).

Let us truly focus on the Lord and on each other. Do not allow Satan, yes Satan, to use these modern devices to distract you. Satan is the ruler of the air(waves). Check out our theme verses for this year (that is, verses preceding and after the actual theme verse). You "lived following the age of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air" (Eph 2:1). No Internet yet at that time, so Paul is speaking about the invisible realities (the air), the spiritual war raging all around us between angels and demons, and the reality that the evil one has dominion over the world (the air being all the space between God in heaven and human beings on earth). But now Satan has found a new and very effective tool, which is the Internet and social media. Just consider the massive spread of pornography and sexual predators.

Before these modern devices, all of us survived a few hours of not having access to a phone or email or whatever jurassic devices we had. And we had more time to pray, read the Bible, attend meetings, serve, fellowship, etc. Admit it, how much time do you devote to your smart phone that is not directly related to the Lord and our work?

We are always looking to strengthen community life. This is one creative way, though perhaps radical for many. But as one who has no cell phone, but who has tons of communication with the worldwide community, and who relies on such communication to keep the mission going, thus finding email and wifi crucial, I tell you it certainly can be done. I can only do such communications when I have access to my laptop, which I leave at home.

It would be great if, when we begin to learn the lesson and overcome our addiction, we do the same in our homes as well, during meals, LBS, or family discussions.

Of course, all the more, we take this posture when we go to Mass. Cell phones should be turned off as one enters the church, and turned on only after one leaves the church.[4] Please notice that I do not say when the Mass starts or ends.

Here is one scenario that we might be facing in the future. It seems farfetched now, but it might be coming.

A Church Service

PASTOR: “The Lord be with you!”
CONGREGATION: “And with your spirit.”

PASTOR: “Will everyone please turn on their tablet, PC, iPad, smart phone and Kindle Bibles to 1 Corinthians 13:13.”

“Please switch on your Bluetooth to download the sermon.”

P-a-u-s-e ....

“Now let us pray committing this week into God’s hands. Open your Apps, BBM, Twitter and Facebook, and chat with God.”

S-i-l-e-n-c-e ....

“As we take our Sunday tithes and offerings, please have your credit and debit cards ready.”

“You can log on to the Church WIFI using the password ‘Lord909887.’”

“The Ushers will circulate mobile card swipe machines among the worshippers:
A. Those who prefer to make electronic fund transfers are directed to computers and laptops at the rear of the Church.
B. Those who prefer to use iPads can open them.
C. Those who prefer telephone banking, take out your cell phones to transfer your contributions to the Church Account.”

The holy atmosphere of the Church becomes truly electrified as all the smart phones, iPads, PCs and laptops beep and flicker!

Final blessing and closing announcements.
A. This week’s Ministry Cell Meetings will be held on the various Facebook group pages where the usual group chatting takes place. Please log in and don’t miss out.
B. Thursday’s Bible study will be held live on Skype at 1900 hours GMT. Please don’t miss out.
C. You can follow your pastor on Twitter this weekend for counseling and prayers.

God bless and have a nice day.”

And Jesus wept ....

(courtesy of the Internet)


* * *

[1] Not a directive.
[2] How about using the cell phone or iPad to look at scripture passages being taken up? The better way is to have an actual Bible and to read that.
[3] There could be other legitimate uses of electronic gadgets during meetings, such as playing music on mp3 if there is no guitar or keyboard, finding Bible passages during study or discussion using Google as concordance, reading announcements from the Home Office at the end of the meeting, and the like.
[4] How about if we use the cell phone to read the scriptures? The word of God is spoken so that it can be heard. It is not to be read by the congregation. This should only be done if one goes to a foreign-language Mass and cannot understand what is being read.
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