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 (Manna 59: Technology and Entertainment)
Worship and Devotion in the 21st Century
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Worship and Devotion in the 21st Century

Enoch Chang—Hillsborough, New Jersey, USA


To say technology has impacted our lives would be an understatement. In fact, there are very few places where the internet, cell phones, TV’s, computers, satellite technology, and many other gadgets have not reached. With these gadgets, we are able to stay in touch more easily and are provided with instant access to all kinds of people, information, and media.

Even more astounding is that some of the newer devices can do all of these in one! It’s no wonder that given all of the benefits 21st-century technology provides, it has become integral not only to business productivity but to our personal lives as well.

The same is true in the church. Cell phones, e-mail, teleconferencing, and the internet have enabled holy workers to coordinate across the globe. Instant messaging and web logs allow members to keep in touch and to share their faith in between the occasional seminar or visitation.

Sermons from around the world can be downloaded on demand, and live sermons can be streamed. Even online Bible studies using webcams are held regularly. Without a doubt, the church has gone digital.

As we have moved towards an instant access- and technology-oriented life, how has it impacted our spiritual life? Specifically, what effects are they having on our worship of and devotion towards God?


I’m sure if you look around your local church, you’ll see that on any given Sabbath, the service itself hasn’t changed. Yes, some churches have replaced white boards with projectors, and, yes, there are audio/visual systems, but the worship structure is largely intact. What has changed, however, are the people worshipping.

Many members now bring cell phones, smart phones, and laptops to church regularly. There’s nothing wrong with this—as mentioned earlier these are beneficial tools.

However, we use these exact same tools every day in our working and personal lives. By bringing them with us to church, do we subconsciously lose our reverence when worshipping in service? In other words, do these ever-present gadgets make sitting in the chapel feel as though we were in our office, at home, or out with friends? Can this cause us to feel too casual at church?

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, He often repeated God’s words, “Let my people go so that they may [worship] Me,” to Pharaoh (Ex 8:1, 8:20, 9:1, 9:13, 10:3). We have to remember that God delivered the Israelites because He heard their groaning and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex 2:23-25). The people needed to be delivered from Egypt so that they could have peace and rest.

In the same way, God knows that we need rest from our toil and labor. As the Israelites needed to depart from Egypt physically and mentally in order to obtain rest, so we, too, need to depart from the world and enter into God’s presence on the Sabbath.

In Nehemiah 13:19-22, we see that Nehemiah shut the gates to the city on the Sabbath and told the Levites to “cleanse themselves, and that they should go and guard the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day.”

What this means is that there needs to be a separation between us and the world on the Sabbath. We need to guard the gates of our heart. In order to truly worship God in spirit and in truth, we need to be able to focus on God by setting aside our worldly tasks. This is the same concept as God setting aside a day, sanctifying it, and resting on it.

Today, this physical and mental barrier is in jeopardy. Our cell phones, smart phones, laptops, radios, and other devices that we bring into the church have invisible strings attached to them. They are conduits that link us to the world when we ought to be setting ourselves apart.

In many cases, they can become virtual portals that bring our minds out of the church even though we are physically present. And now, at younger ages our children are doing the same.

But other questions loom: Do we even have to bring these things to church? And why are they on during service? What if we only turn them on during break time?

Sabbath Delight

I recently purchased a smart phone, which is essentially a mini-computer. The first Sabbath I had it with me, the temptation to fiddle with it, text message, surf the web, or play games during service was stronger than I expected.

After I thought about it, I realized the temptation was so strong because using the device was discrete and non-intrusive. It wouldn’t disrupt the service in any way. More importantly, I realized there was a bigger issue confronting us today: technology addiction.

Do we sometimes say we’re bringing our laptops to church to take notes, that we’re bringing our cell phones for emergency use, and that we’re doing A/V to help with church work, or are they really excuses to keep us near our gadgets? Do we text message other church members during service and justify doing it because they are church members?

Since we use technology so much in our lives, it’s hard for us to get by without it. If we bring our gadgets to church on the Sabbath in order to give us something to do, it’s not because the sermons are too dry; it’s because our hearts are too empty.

Isaiah 58:13, 14 says:

            “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

            Living in this world, it’s inevitable that at some point we may feel weak or empty. Since we are confronted with the same pressures that the rest of society is faced with, it’s important to cast our burdens on God and take up His yoke.

            The Sabbath was designed with us in mind. God knows we are flesh and need to be recharged physically and spiritually, which is why He challenges and promises us that if we call the Sabbath a delight and do not do our own will, He will cause us to ride on the high hills of the earth and will feed us with the heritage of Jacob. This means He will fill our hearts and give us rest.

            But first, we have to call the Sabbath a delight. We have to look forward to receiving rest on the Sabbath instead of viewing the Sabbath as a chore and a burden from God.

If we’re not receiving spiritual rest on the Sabbath, if our cell phone is the one always going off during service, if during break time we find ourselves surfing the internet or messaging others instead of having fellowship with the brothers and sisters right before us, or if seeing another member with a new electronic device spurs envy in our heart or the desire to get something better, then perhaps we need to make a change in our lives.

Perhaps we are addicted to the technology that is supposed to help us. To help us focus on worship, we can turn off our electronic devices or leave them in our cars on the Sabbath.

If we realize that we’re really bringing our gadgets to church to provide us relief from boredom on the Sabbath, then we will never receive true rest or fulfillment. Let’s make a determination to set our minds on delighting in the Sabbath, and put aside all of the things that may distract us so that our hearts may be filled!


Another aspect of our life which has significantly benefited from technology is our devotional life. This is the time we spend outside of the Sabbath drawing nearer to God and cultivating ourselves. It’s the effort we make to study the word of God, to practice the word of God, and to pray.

In this regard, technology and media have made substantial direct contributions. For example, there are Bible programs and websites that help us keep track of our daily Bible reading. Furthermore, multiple translations of the Bible are at our disposal to help us better understand what we’re reading. We can even access maps, historical references, and relevant pictures using different search tools. As we study the Bible, there is a wealth of resources just a mouse-click away!

But on top of all of this, we can listen to sermon recordings from churches around the world. While we’re driving or walking, our music devices give us the ability to virtually attend services and seminars on demand. What better way to pursue a holy life than to listen to the word of God, the truth, daily?

But is there such a thing as listening to too much? Is there a possibility that listening often to sermon recordings actually prevents us from spiritually maturing? There could be, if listening to sermon recordings becomes a replacement for studying the Bible.

A lot of times, it’s easier to just play a sermon while we’re driving, cooking, walking, riding public transit, and doing other things than to set aside time to study the word of God diligently.

Ezra 7:10 says:

            For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.

Ezra journeyed to Jerusalem after the temple had been rebuilt and dedicated in order to rebuild the spiritual lives of the Israelites. But the first thing he needed to do was “seek the Law of the LORD.” In the same way, to establish our own spiritual lives, we need to seek for God and His word. This is done through studying the Bible.

Listening to sermons is beneficial and helps us to understand God’s word through someone else’s experience. It can encourage and motivate us to follow God wholeheartedly. But true first-hand experience, true strength, comes by studying the word of God and searching the Scriptures.

Jesus said that He is the bread of life, and the Gospel of John tells us that Jesus is the Word. If we want to receive spiritual nourishment, we need to read the word of God. If we only listen to sermon recordings every day but do not read the Bible ourselves, then all we have is knowledge that is spoon-fed to us, which may actually place our faith in specific sermon speakers as opposed to taking root in God’s word.

At the same time, without seeking out the law of God ourselves, we don’t truly know it. If we don’t know it, how then can we practice it or even teach it to others? How can we have anything to share during Bible studies? In many cases, we reach a point where we just want to listen to “good” sermons, much like the biblical prophecy about the world having an “itching ear” (2 Tim 4:3).

James 1:22 and Romans 2:13 exhort us not only to be hearers of the word but doers. If we think that listening to three sermons every day automatically makes us perfect and holy, then we are forgetting what kind of person we are. We have to live out the word of God and experience it. Only then, after searching the Scriptures and living it out, can we exemplify it to others.

Consider when Philip preached to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts chapter 8. The Ethiopian eunuch was riding in the chariot reading the Book of Isaiah, but he couldn’t understand it. When Philip rode with him to explain that Isaiah spoke about the coming of Jesus, the eunuch was immediately baptized.

Today, to fulfill our commission of preaching the gospel, we have to be similarly equipped. If our friends ask us biblical questions, would it be enough to just say, “Oh, I have a sermon recording you can listen to,” or, “I remember hearing a sermon about that, but I don’t remember where the Bible says so or what exactly was said”? Or is it more effective if we’re able to speak with passion and conviction the words that we have received from God through studying the Bible?

Won’t we seem more credible to truthseekers if we’re able to reference the Bible and show that we’re well versed? There is no reason for others to believe what we say if we don’t seem to have worked out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

More than anything, however, technology can prevent us from going forth and putting the word of God into practice. Surrounded by all the comforts of technology at home, by all the information we receive, when will we go into the world and preach the gospel as commanded? 

Like many other things in this world, technology is neither good nor bad. It’s a tool that we can use for a wide range of purposes. As Christians, we can use it to support our ministry and the growth of the church, but let us be vigilant.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. While we don’t know what new advances technology will bring to us tomorrow, God’s standard and expectation remain the same forever. 

Let us determine to pursue Him wholeheartedly and never let anything replace Him in our hearts. If at any time we realize that we have become the tool of technology, let us always return to Him, for He is faithful!

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Author: Enoch Chang