I’m one of those guys who likes technology. I don’t understand it, but I like it. I don’t know how my GPS system works in my car, but as a directionally dysfunctional person, I’m grateful that it knows where I am and where I’m headed.
I don’t understand electricity, but I’m grateful it works when I turn the switch on. I don’t understand how a black cow can eat green grass and give white milk, but I drink it. I don’t have a clue about my computer so I have to get Brian Kelley to fix it, explain it, load it or throw it away for me. I can’t understand the technical manuals, and I don’t intend to start trying at this point in my life.
I don’t understand how we can have so many cell phones and the satellites can find us wherever we are on the planet. I like having a cell phone. I liked the fact that our kids were never out of contact with us when they were out at night. If it was getting close to curfew and they were running late, there was no excuse. They could call and let us know. No need for a quarter, just use your cell phone.
I like the convenience. I like being able to call my kids when they are traveling on the road to make sure they are okay. I like the idea of the cell phones for kids that allow them to call four numbers in case of an emergency. I’m not sure why kids need cell phones just to yak and chat. To me, the purpose of a cell phone is for the parents to stay connected with their kids, not for the kids to stay connected with every person on the planet.
I remember John Maxwell saying one time that he doesn’t carry a cell phone. He said, “When I’m important, I might get one.” I think he was trying to tell us something, but we were all talking on our cell phones and missed the point.
I have been in many restaurants that have a no smoking AND no cell phone policy. Apparently they believe that talking on a cell phone in a public restaurant is rude. I watch every week as teenagers use their cell phones in church to send text messages—sometimes even to another student in the service. It’s distracting to me and to those around them.
On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., I noticed something that got my attention. Every lawyer in D.C. has a cell phone, and they are always on them. Most of them have a cell phone, a BlackBerry and a dozen other gizmos that I have no clue how to work.
But that’s not what I noticed. What I noticed was every place of significancethat we went to had a ‘no cell phone’ or ‘turn off your cell phone’ policy. When we visited Ford’s Theater, we were asked by the tour guide to turn off our cell phones because this was a national monument, and we needed to preserve the dignity of the site. We needed to remember the significance of the assassination of Lincoln and its impact on our nation.
When we visited the National Archives, which house the Declaration of Independence, The Magna Carta, The Bill of Rights and the Constitution, we were told to turn off our cell phones. We were told we would be asked to leave if our cell phones went off. It was very clear that we were in a place of significance. We were in a room that contained the documents of our freedom. Everything about that room gave evidence to the freedom we had been given by those who fought and died for our liberty. The viewing of the old parchments was more important than any call we would get at the time.
When we visited Arlington Cemetery, the sign said clearly, ‘This is hallowed ground.’ We were told to turn off all cell phones—no cell phones under any circumstances, not even on vibrate, so as to show respect for the dead. At the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the guard stepped off the mat and said there was to be absolute silence. They take seriously respect for the dead at Arlington. Even when you are walking up the long, steep hill, you are expected to talk in whispers. No laughing, running or yelling. No matter how long we were there, no matter what was going on in the world, we were expected to turn off our cell phones.
When we visited the Holocaust Museum, we were told to turn off our cell phones. They didn’t ask us to put them on vibrate, they said turn them off. They expected us, for the next two hours, to show respect for those who lost their lives because of a brutal tyrant who hated Jews and Christians.
When I went to the Capitol that day for a meeting with two congressmen, I was asked to turn off my cell phone. Although I was waiting for an hour until the meeting, it was not a time for me to chat on my phone. I wasn’t even to send text messages. I was to sit and wait. It was an act of respect for the place I was in, the Capitol of the United States of America.
Cell phones have become the ‘kids talking in the balcony during the service’ of the 21st century. Remember when the preacher would stop his message and call down a couple of kids or teenagers in the balcony who were cutting up? Those were the days before we wore our feelings on our sleeves. Those were the days when the preacher called you down and your daddy tore you up when you got home.
Today, every church and every pastor in America is dealing with the issue of cell phones. Either out of forgetfulness or carelessness, people have their cell phones on in worship services. Let’s think about this.
At Arlington, the Capitol, the Holocaust Museum and Ford’s Theater, we were told to turn them off (not set them on vibrate) out of respect for the dead, in remembrance of those who have paid the price for us, to honor the sacred documents of our land and because we were on hallowed ground. Does any of that have a correlation to church? You bet.
When we gather in the Lord’s house, we gather to remember and worship the One who died for us. His death gave us a freedom greater than our freedom as Americans. I owe Him respect. In worship, we remember the price paid for us by our Lord. He is worthy of our undivided attention. It might do the body well to remember the Head is more important than that piece of technology we hold in our hands. His documents, the Holy Bible, are the only words that will stand for all eternity. The documents of American history will one day be forgotten. His Word will stand forever. When we gather together to honor the Lord, we are on hallowed ground. Maybe we should forget ‘vibrate’ and focus on vibrant worship. Maybe we should stop text messaging in church and focus on the text for the day. That is, if we have as much respect for the Lord God of heaven as we are told to have for our nation’s capital.
© Michael Catt, 2006
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.