Word of the Week

Cell Phones in Church?

This week, while at my Lewis Fellows meeting, our group had the opportunity to dialogue with Olu Brown, senior pastor of a new church start in Atlanta, Impact Church which has experienced explosive growth during its short tenure of two years.

Impact church meets in an junior high school and is averaging a weekly attendance of over 1,000. (It is a United Methodist congregation, but without the name on its logo). Even as there are five other UMC congregations in a couple mile radius of its meeting place, this church has done well says Pastor Brown because of its willingness to take risks in design and its boldness in marketing. Impact aspires to be a church for those in the neighborhood that others are not reaching.

One of these unique strategies involves being a “cell phone safe zone” congregation. By this they mean that cell phones, pagers, palm pilots, computers, etc are all welcome in the worship service. Noise devices are asked to be silenced, but  no one is looked down on for getting out their computer in the middle of the service.

All of us quickly wanted to know why because the scene Pastor Brown described sounded like a worship disaster.

However, Pastor Brown said he felt such a practice was people friendly. In the technology age where so many of us function with our hands tied to a computer or blackberry to receive and process information, Pastor Brown and his team felt that church should be no different. If a piece of technology helped a church attendee pay better attention to his sermons or prayers, it would be welcomed. Plus, he said, so many people these days enter “official” institutions and are greeted by an unfriendly sign to put away their technology. He hopes that having a “cell phone safe zone” would go the extra mile to show that Impact Church was a different kind of place where people were welcome wherever they were.

But, I ask, how many people know the score of the football game when church is over? How is this helpful to the larger cause?

So, I’m interested in your thoughts on this? Would you want to go to a church with this policy? Do you think this is  contributing to a worshipful environment or distracting from it?

All of these considerations are important as technology is not going away anytime soon. Our new President got to keep his blackberry after all!