DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

For Lent, How About Giving Up Technology?

Written by: on March 21, 2019

  [1]

While reading this week’s book, my mind (yes, evangelicals do occasionally use their mind, Mr. Mark Noll) kept going back to Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend in Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. I used to hand that book out like candy when I was a local church Pastor. Cloud and Townsend have updated their book (written 25 years ago) to include boundaries surrounding digital technology. The areas of technology and media must be confronted head on in order to establish healthy boundaries that can help glorify God through healthy relationships. Thankfully the good Doctors have recognized the new age we are in and have shared their biblically grounded advice that can help us, our ministry teams, and our congregations. This excerpt from their book will help bring to light to why it’s necessary to address this topic and set healthy boundaries in this area.

Welcome to the on-call life. I wished for the kind of job a surgeon at my golf course had, and I was essentially saying, “I don’t want work to tie me down to a physical space. I want work to be able to find me wherever I am so I can go anywhere and have total freedom.” It’s a nice wish, but as we all now know, it’s not without its consequences.

At the time, an on-call life still had limits, and being on call was mostly reserved for people who had to deal with urgent or emergency situations. You could be contacted only if you had a pager, and the only ones who could page you were the select few who had the pager number—members of an office staff, an answering service, a hospital, and so on. There were boundaries on both who could find you and when you could be found.

Next came the cell phone. At first mobile phones were expensive to use (forty cents or more a minute) and not everyone had one. Those who did used them sparingly. But within a few years, improved technology brought the costs down and it wasn’t long until everyone had a cell phone. Now you could be found anywhere at any time by anyone who had your number.

Then came the internet and email, and worse, they married each other and birthed the SMARTPHONE. Now we cannot have a single hour away from this madness. Boundaries must be put in place. So, what does all this mean? Something very important: boundaries on technology and social media are entirely up to you… [2]

We are certainly not immune in the church world. I knew Rick Warren’s Executive Pastor at Saddleback Church during the “Forty Days of Purpose” era. Pastor Rick was valiantly trying to Pastor the world, but it came at a tremendous cost. My friend and Christian brother, Lance Witt, loved his job, but it would not be uncommon to receive a dozen emails overnight from Pastor Rick about major initiative changes. It wasn’t long before my friend burned out, unable to cope with the daily demands technology chained his psyche to. Our Conference adopted his “Ten Commandments of Technology and Teamwork”:

1.Thou shalt not use email to deliver bad news.

2. Thou shalt not put anything that cannot be forwarded because it probably will be.

3. Thou shalt not email during a face to face meeting.

4. Thou shalt not use bcc in emails because of secret secrecy.

5. Thou shalt not expect others to respond immediately if they are with family or after hours.

6. Thou shalt keep e-mails short and to the point.

7. Thou shalt not text or take calls while in conversation or in a meeting.

8. Thou shalt not call or e-mail people on their day off.

9. Thou shalt use e-mail for prayer and encouragement.

10. Thou shalt give phone/e-mail/social media/screens a Sabbath. [3]

Unfortunately, technology busyness is the church world is REWARDED. The reward for good work is MORE WORK. If a pastor sins by having an affair or taking his/her anger out on her/his employees, he/she gets fired.  If another pastor skips the Sabbath, works like a dog, neglects important relationships, and rarely sleeps, she/he gets a raise and a promotion! For some reason, it is sanctified in the Lord’s church to stay connected 24/7 at the expense of family and health…

In Dale Carnegie Training, leaders and managers are cautioned about the abuse of technology. I was taught to only check emails twice a day–it is unproductive to leave your email open and constantly respond to the “ding” of your computer, taking one’s mind off the important to needlessly address the so called urgent. The training reminded everyone that our business is PEOPLE, and included the tag line, “Build strong, authentic relationships to impart a close-knit culture and energize team members.” [4]

After last week’s heavier topic, this week’s book was a healthy respite, and was tremendously practical for our daily lives. Cal Newport (gratefully, a previous author for us in Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World) shares golden nuggets in Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. I was tremendously helped by his “less is more” concept as it relates to mixing harm with benefits. [5]

I also greatly appreciated his “digital declutter” concepts. [6] When reading this book I was thinking of our very own Dan Kreiss, fly fisherman extraordinary. There is a movement in fishing towards simplification, typically called a “minimalist” in the angling world. It carries over perfectly from our book, when preaching, “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.” [7]

What do I hope to apply from this book?  How about this–keep taking a technology Sabbath rest, focus on reducing my digital addictions (hard to do while in a online DMin Program or ESPECIALLY during the March Madness NCAA Basketball Tournament), not taking my phone into the bedroom ever (Thank you Divine Sex book for letting us think more about healthy intimacy), and closing my email and Facebook window while working on my computer so that I am not constantly connected…

 

[1] Cloud, Henry, and John Sims Townsend. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

[2] Ibid. 148.

[3] Witt, Lance. Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011. 219.

[4] Associates, Dale Carnegie. “The Path to Effective Communications and Human Relations.” Interpersonal Communications & People Skills Training | Dale Carnegie. January 2018. Accessed March 22, 2019. https://www.dalecarnegie.com/en/topics/people-skills.

[5] Newport, Cal. Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2019. 26.

[6] Ibid. 58.

[7] Ibid. XV.

About the Author

mm

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

7 responses to “For Lent, How About Giving Up Technology?”

  1. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Great job Jay. Love those 10 commandments. you bring up a great point about the busyness being rewarded in church culture. We give out an inappropriate badge of honor to those who work too much. But its a weird tension because I think Id rather work for someone who works too much as opposed to someone who is lazy.

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      I agree with you Kyle, no place for laziness. And I think there is something to say about the “busyness rhythm” where you obviously have to work longer at certain points, like the first three years at a new job.

  2. mm Mike says:

    Jay,
    Wow, you waltzed us around the digital minimization topic with your ethnography blast from your past. Well done and my head is still spinning. Newport has some solid ideas but lacks the spiritual development and leaves it up to us to interpret with Scripture and make application to how it will benefit God’s Kingdom building. You know, I bet an old fashion prayer for wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit would help us manage the digital world just fine. Sorry to say, but even Newport’s work is sometimes just digital noise when compared to the powers working behind the scenes to distract us from our real focus, serving God.
    Keep you armor on my friend.
    Stand firm,
    Mike

  3. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Jay,

    The most poignant part of your blog to me was your recognition that many, if not most, churches actually condone the sin of sabbath breaking. While everyone may acknowledge that the pastor needs a consistent sabbath when that parishioners need is at hand the pastor’s sabbath only applies to others. I believe that much of the sexual and financial sin we see in the lives of pastors originally stems from this lack of personal and spiritual boundaries. And, you are right – they are rewarded for it.

    Now, add to that the modern pressures to be connected, up to date, have a dynamic presence in a digital platform and it is not too difficult to see that the expectations on pastors is absolutely untenable.

    In your role as superintendent, and now that you are clued into Digital Minimalism, how do you counsel your pastors in terms of sabbath? How do you counsel the churches to not only permit sabbath but demand it?

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      Dan!

      Great question. One of our emphasis this year is on “soul care” so we will be emphasizing boundaries and Sabbath rest–they have to report to their accountability partner–including quiet times, family time, date night, etc…

  4. Chris Pritchett says:

    You’re such a smart pastor, Jay. Great work bringing in Cloud and Townsend. If we can apply the principles and practices of that book to our digital lives, we would be better for it, I think. While offering many cool things, fundamentally, I don’t think the internet and these phones have helped the human race to flourish.

  5. Shawn Hart says:

    Jay, I want to thank you for reading all those books…that I way I take your list and find time to read them another day. LOL. Ironically, as I read your post, I had another window open on my computer beneath it showing the 131 emails on AOL, 9 on google (its my school acct), and 12 on my church acct; we won’t even talk about the Junk files that accumulate about 100 per hour. I avoid email like the plague. Text messaging, well, such a great iPhone, and yet, I dread hearing that annoying little chime. LOL.

    Great post.

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