SOCIAL MEDIA & Many Church Services Are Now a Sea of iPhones. And Clergy Members Think That’s Great.

by Ruth Graham, Slate Magazine, 6/12/18.

… Until recently, many churches were that rare 21st -century phenomenon: the organically analog space. In the early years of the iPhone age, they remained tucked away in purses and pockets, and it was vaguely taboo to peek at them during the worship service. But walk into most churches on Sunday morning now, and you’ll quickly see how much that has changed.

…The most significant shift is the rise of the Scripture app, which for many Christians has replaced hardback or leather-bound Bibles that often approach 1,000 pages. YouVersion, a free non-commercial app that has more than 1,000 languages and translations, was one of the first free apps available when Apple’s app store launched. The app has now been downloaded more than 323 million times. (Other scriptures have their own apps: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Gospel Library app includes Mormon teachings.) YouVersion founder Bobby Gruenewald says he developed YouVersion because he wanted an easy way to read the Bible during the course of the day. But it soon became obvious than many people were using it during worship services. Usage more than doubles on Sunday mornings, Gruenewald says, and new installations of the app spike then, too. “Initially there was a bit of tension,” he recalled, when pastors were prickly about seeing people using their phones in the pews. But in recent years, he said, the complaints have mostly stopped.

… Some clergy members now actively encourage phone usage. “I feel like if the church isn’t using technology, we’re telling Gutenberg, ‘We don’t want your printing press,’ ” said Jim Keat, the associate minister of digital strategy and online engagement at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. He spends Sunday morning live-tweeting events at the church, including snippets from the sermon and prayers. Keat dismissed the idea that phones are problematically distracting to churchgoers. He pointed out that people have been tuning out in churches long before phones existed. And technology, unlike idle daydreaming, can be a vehicle for tuning in, too. People who have stayed home for any reason—illness, shyness, fear, pain—can use social media to peek inside the church doors and be reminded of what’s happening there.

Read more at … https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/06/many-church-services-are-now-a-sea-of-iphones-and-clergy-members-think-thats-great.html