Oct 02, 2017


Acting Dumb on Your Smartphone

Andy Cimbala shares about how your smartphone can either be a distraction or a tool as you advance God’s kingdom through college ministry.

“The essential question we must constantly ask ourselves in the quickly evolving age of digital technology is not what can I do with my phone, but what should I do with it? That answer, as we have seen, can be resolved only by understanding why we exist in the first place.” – Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

Why do we exist? We are made in God’s image, called to enjoy Him and glorify Him by making disciples. Our identity is disciples of Christ, and our purpose is to make disciples. We were not made to just be entertained. We were made for mission to make disciples and glorify God! As college ministry leaders, this means we should focus on doing thre things: love God, love students, and make disciples.

How does a smartphone fit into this equation? It means the smartphone can either be a distraction from those three things, or a powerful tool to enable you to better accomplish those 3 things. A distraction or a tool. Either way, the phone has great power. Let’s drill down on what this looks like.

3 Smartphone Distractions:

1. Distracted from God
How many of us check our phone first thing in the morning? Instead of talking with God and hearing from Him in His Word? When we do this morning after morning, what kind of habits are we creating? What are we filling our mind with? Will emails, texts, posts, likes, and news set our hearts towards Christ and equip us for the challenges of ministry? I don’t think so. If we don’t watch our smartphone use, we’ll be training ourselves to consume entertainment instead of feasting on God’s Word. If our phone is sitting on the table during our prayer time, we’re gonna be distracted. Not to mention the phone being a gateway for all kinds of sins that distance us from God, especially because of the anonymity. Porn use is huge, and our smartphones can be our supplier. All this destroys our relationship with God. Are we really going to let a piece of metal and glass come between us and the God of the universe? It’s a lousy exchange.

2. Distracted from Students
How many of us are tempted to whip out our phone when there’s a lull in conversation? Or when we’re just tired of interacting with new students at a dinner table? Often we’re paying attention to our phone instead of the people right in front of us. We consume the images of people online and what they portray rather than doing the hard and long work of really getting to know them. This distracts us from real relationship and real depth with the person across the table from us. They are made in God’s image and important!

3. Distracted from Mission
This is the death by a thousand cuts. A few minutes playing games, a few more minutes reading news, meandering around on email and Snapchat, nibbling on the candy of social media and whatever is trending, and a hundred other distracting things on our phones, instead of focusing on the strategic need of making disciples on campus. Wake up! This is life or death, we are in a war. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness that want to stop the kingdom of God. We must be sober minded, not numbed by the daily meaningless hashtags and memes. “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:4)

If you’re convicted that you’re “acting dumb on your smartphone” as Andy Mineo so eloquently put it, you need the encouragement and power of the gospel. If you’re like me, you’ve failed in these areas often. God offers forgiveness through Jesus! God calls us in Ephesians 4:22-24 to put off our old self, and to put on the new self. With smartphones, we must “put off” the distractions, and instead “put them on” as tools for God’s great purposes. Because of God’s grace, we don’t need to throw out our phones. We can simply repent and then take steps to use our phones for God’s glory. Let’s look at 3 ways.

3 Smartphone Kingdom Uses:

1. Love God
Read the Bible on your phone, search topics in the Scriptures, read Christ-exalting books via the Kindle app. Listen to sermons, journal, keep a prayer list. Our goal is to enjoy God. How can our phones be used as a powerful tool to help us do that?

2. Love Students
Keep a calendar so you can honor others’ time commitments and stay faithful to your own. Input notes and reminders after discipleship meetings so you can pray and followup. Text Scripture to students. Call them. Stay connected to their lives through wise and strategic use of social media and new apps. If students are all on their phones, then using a phone to connect with them makes sense. It’s part of being a good missionary. How can our phones be an amplifier of our love for students?

3. Equip the Mission
God has called us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20) and we can’t be wasting time! How can we use our smartphones as tools to more effectively fulfill the mission God has given? Examples: Read timely articles and listen to relevant podcasts to further equip yourself for the work of ministry. Use apps like Remind to send text message updates to your student leaders. Check out the other resources here on Collegiate Collective, and if you’re overwhelmed by all the content first read the Roadmap that Clayton Bullion wrote this summer.

Where do you need to repent and change your smartphone use? Do you need a 12-step detox? Do you just need to put down the phone and read more? What old habits do you need to stop? Instead, how can you use your smartphone as a tool for God’s kingdom? What new habits do you need to start? With smartphones, we’re sometimes the chief offenders, and I pray that we can instead become good examples and models for our students.

about the author

Andy Cimbala

Andy Cimbala and his wife Melissa have a passion to make disciples of college students. They work with DiscipleMakers at Shippensburg University, leading Bible studies and mentoring leaders. Andy has written a book called The Relentless Fight.