“Nomophobia” 

Neal Pollard

That’s not a typo for another popularly-used term.  It’s actually a “thing,” at least according to a 2010 study by the UK Post Office.  It is short for “no-mobile-phone phobia” (Tim Elmore, psychologytoday.com). There’s even a website called nomophobia.com, and they identify “the four fears of Nomophobia”—broken, lost, stolen, or useless smartphones. While that site operates “tongue in cheek,” there are a bevy of experts more than ready to talk about how this is an epidemic impacting especially youth in our culture.  University of Connecticut School of Medicine’s Dr. David Greenfield has done much work in this study. He points to the problem of a dysregulation of dopamine, “meaning that it motivates people to do things they think will be rewarded for doing” (clever, cutting, or flamboyant Tweets, posts, pics, etc.) and that it can foster people’s addiction to the internet and technology (Madeline Stone, businessinsider.com). Greenfield adds, “That feeling you’re going to miss something if you’re not constantly checking is an illusion — most parts of our lives are not relevant to our smartphones. What happens on our devices is not reflective of what happens in real life” (ibid.).  There are even digital detox programs, in the United States as well as other countries around the world.  Psychiatrist Dale Archer gives this advice, “Stop texting while you’re driving. Don’t take it into the bathroom with you. Have a rule not to use your phone when you’re with your friends. If you’re on a date, make a rule that you’ll both check your phone for a maximum of 5 minutes every 90 minutes. It’s all about setting simple rules that you can follow” (ibid.).

Amateur psychiatrists and specialists everywhere can quickly diagnose this condition in their spouses and significant others, their children, and their friends, but they may be myopic to their own inordinate practice (see every airport, doctor’s office, restaurant, etc.).  Addiction to, or at least habitual abuse of, smartphones and similar technology is simply the latest and a more obvious example of a long-standing human tendency.  Paul told Corinth, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12). In context, Paul is beginning a discussion of the sin of fornication after having talked about Corinth’s generally sinful past from which they had been forgiven.  Paul’s desire was not to be “mastered” (ruled, reigned over, Louw 37.48) by anything.  He later writes about the self-mastery and discipline necessary to live the Christian life (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Cell phones are just one possible impediment to this.  There are so many other possibilities we must keep aware of, things which can derail us from our purpose and focus in this life.  So many of them are fine in balance and moderation, but we can allow them to consume and even overtake us.  A fear of being without those things is only one of the attending problems.  Being ruled by anything or anyone other than Christ is the overriding concern.  We are all served well by looking carefully at the things in our lives and make sure we have no master other than Christ.

“Go To The Ant, You…DARPA?”

Neal Pollard

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was formed in 1958 for technological advancements and has been responsible for so many of the gadgets and conveniences we enjoy today. They use a variety of means to “both advance knowledge through basic research and create innovative technologies that address current practical problems through applied research” (darpa.mil). SRI International, one of the agencies DARPA partners with, “has taken inspiration from the giant mound of insects, to create their own swarms of tiny worker robots that can put together mechanical assemblies and electronic circuits” (Michael Trei, dvice.com). The military has given thought to using these robots to rebuild and repair, even in the midst of battle.  Who can foresee where this technology may show up in our daily lives?

People can be incredibly brilliant and innovative.  There is no limit to our imagination and invention.  Yet, this (and many other examples) points up to God in at least two ways.  First, our intelligence points to an intelligent designer. Moses informs us that we are made in the very image of our Creator (Gen. 1:26-27).  Second, our brightest developments and designs are drawn from what God’s created world.  Solomon once admonished, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8).  They say imitation is the highest form of flattery.  How ironic that in a world growing more unbelieving, mankind keeps paying tribute to the wisdom and power of the One who made it all.

DON’T BE A “BORED AGAIN” CHRISTIAN!

Neal Pollard
Steve Martz recently wrote a book he entitled 77 Talks To Bored-Again Teens. Explaining the rationale for his book, Martz says, “With teenage attention spans decreasing as fast as new channels appear on satellite TV, it’s not just a case of presenting the gospel as it stands and hoping they ‘get it.’ In this post-modern age you have to hit them in bite-sized chunks to make an impact and make tentative steps into their world.” There is no doubt that our world is changing, and most of us change with it to a greater degree than we realize. This blog post, your congregation’s PowerPoint, your dish, your DSL, your i-stuff, and a thousand other gadgets are shrines paying homage to such change. These things may indeed challenge the perseverance of our attention span.

Yet, with all due respect to Martz’ attempt at accommodation, I think his premise misses the point. Without intending to, Martz is trying to improve on God’s means of communicating His message. If it is not still “the foolishness of preaching” whereby God seeks to reach and save mankind, what can man invent to better it (cf. 1 Cor. 1:21)? However, I am certain that there are “bored again” Christians of all ages scattered here and there. I agree that there should not be any, but let me suggest some other ideas for breaking out of these doctrinal doldrums.

Break out of the entertainment mindset. Each of us should remind ourselves every day, “It’s not about me.” Humor-filled, emotionally-tugging, and feel-good lessons may touch a more superficial part of us, but we should remember that listening to a sermon or singing a spiritual song is not the same as watching a good (?) movie or listening to our favorite musical performer. Read the sermons of Peter, Stephen, and Paul. Vegetable-Soup For The Israelite Soul or Your Best Roman Life Now was not the foundation for their lessons. Andrew, Bartholomew, and Philip were not a traveling drama troupe or praise team. The Greeks and Romans had actors and actresses, stage and plays. The early church was not interesting in tickling a funny bone; they wanted to save the soul.

Renew your relationship with God. The Christian life can become more exhilarating and exciting the longer you live it. As your inward person is renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16-18), you will find God, His Word, His promises, His love, and heaven more real to you. Even as your body breaks down, people disappoint you, and others desert Him, you can find Him dearer and closer to you with each passing day. Even as living the Christian life brings tears, sacrifices, and persecution, it will not seem boring to you! Paul is pretty discouraged at times in 2 Timothy 4, but he never once sounds bored. My grandpa would say that boredom means you have too much time on your hands anyway!

Find somebody to serve. Boredom reflects the luxury of thinking about and tending to self. Stephanas and his house devoted themselves to service. The Bible does not say, but I cannot imagine them being bored (cf. 1 Cor. 16:16). Christians have been liberated to serve (Gal. 5:13). Through serving one another and in all serving the Lord, we will find great satisfaction and reward (cf. Eph. 6:6-7). I have seen few true servants that were unhappy, much less bored. This is a sure remedy for the “bored again” Christian.

Someone once asked a preacher, “What is worldliness?” A teenager in the class answered, “It’s letting the world set the standards.” That may be the best definition I have ever heard. Let us not let the world set the standard for spirituality, excitement, or enjoyment. Those trying to medicate themselves with entertainment are heart-sick folks! True excitement and joy comes in overcoming this world (cf. 1 John 5:4). Don’t be a “bored again” Christian!

Why Has There Been A Decline In Public Responses?

Neal Pollard

While I am certain that there are those who will say that they are still seeing as many public responses in their assemblies as ever, most will observe what I have observed.  As I think back to my childhood, public responses to the invitation were commonplace—nearly every service.  When I first began preaching, public responses requesting baptism or public repentance by members very regularly occurred.  Steadily, particularly in the last five to 10 years, such responses have declined. The burning question is, “Why?”

One might point to the growing influence of the world and its impact on the heart of hearers.  One may point to weaker, less distinct preaching.  One could talk about how potential responders will feel judged or condemned by the others present.  One could speak of the philosophies and world views of the age, whether secularism, naturalism, postmodernism, or emergent theology.

Though these are no doubt factors, I am not fully satisfied with them.  Weren’t these stumbling blocks in place in previous generations.  The names of the philosophies may have changed, but they were there. Consider another theory.  Are we losing the traditional, real social connection and fellowship of days gone by as we lose ourselves in the virtual world of social media (some of the same desensitizing factors could apply to TV and movies, too)?  Before you dismiss this theory, consider some reasons why I promulgate it.

  • Some use social media as their “confessional” or front pew, where they confess their failings in marriage, attitude, speech, or actions.
  • On the other hand, social media outlets—particularly those having photos as part of their makeup—create an artificiality.  We don’t post unflattering pictures (and may plead with those that tag us in them to delete them), don’t generally admit to weaknesses of character or anything that may make us seem inferior to others (financially, socially, intellectually, etc.).  Image replaces integrity.
  • Increased time on social media, cultivating that virtual world and its relationships, may be robbing us of real-time, real-life relationships.  We often neglect those in front of us for those we’re “visiting” by phone or tablet.

How might this impact public responses?  Are we meeting the needs of James 5:16 and 1 John 1:9 via the virtual world? Are we afraid to show vulnerability, need, or weakness, lest we be deemed “inferior”?  Have we desensitized ourselves, losing the ability to be “real”?  There may be huge holes in my theory, but I suspect there is at least some truth to it.

What can we do to reverse the trend? Hopefully, giving it some serious thought is a start.  We cannot reduce ourselves to mindless minions who are consumed with the superficial while disconnecting from the authentic.  We must renew a dedication to fellowship and relationship, now more than ever!  The people on Pentecost were disturbed enough by clear, divine teaching to make that known in the clearest terms (Acts 2:37).  Let’s help the church be a place of real connections and relationships so we can help each other when spiritual needs exist.