Using the Internet and Mobile Devices for Spiritual Growth

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At this time of global pandemic, the internet has become a lifeline: the chief source of facts about COVID-19; a means of attending church services, where they are currently suspended; and most of all, a way to see our families, indeed in many cases simply to see other human beings. What do we know about how Seventh-day Adventist Church members use and interact with the internet? Our recent blog about social media examined the habits of Adventist church members worldwide regarding social media use and questioned if we are using this resource to its full potential to glorify God. However, researchers also wanted to find out how the Internet, as a whole, is used by Adventists to aid in spiritual growth. The data shared below are taken from 2013 and 2018—well before the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, they are both interesting, and very important for church leaders as they consider the current (and no doubt future) greatly increased usage of virtual platforms.

As part of the 2013 Global Church Member Survey (GCMS), church members were asked if they use the Internet to grow their faith. However, nearly half (45%) reported that they never did so, while one in three participants reported using the Internet to a moderate or great extent to grow their faith. These were sobering data given the investment the Adventist Church worldwide has put into various virtual platforms.

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Between the years of 2013 and 2018, the Internet continued to grow in capacity and usability; additionally, smartphones and tablets became ever more common, providing access to the Internet virtually anywhere and everywhere. Therefore, when the 2017-18 GCMS was conducted, researchers wanted to determine if–and how–members used their mobile devices in spiritually enhancing activities.

In spite of the enormous potential of mobile devices, the 2018 survey showed it was still largely an untapped resource for Seventh-day Adventists. More than one-third of respondents reported never using their cell phone or tablet for Bible study[1] or personal devotions.[2] Only every ninth respondent (11%) utilized a mobile device for this purpose even once a week, just over forty percent used a mobile device as part of their Bible study or personal devotions several times per week. Yet this only just exceeded the proportion of respondents for whom mobile devices apparently have nothing to do with their personal devotional life.

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Even fewer respondents reported using a mobile device to access and read Ellen White’s writings;[3] more than half of respondents reported never using a mobile device for such a purpose. Only 11 percent did so more than once a week, and only 13% did so daily.

Ellen White’s writings are currently available online in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Mandarin, Romain, Arabian, and Korean; as such, it should be noted that some of the survey respondents may not have access to EGW writings in their native language (see our blog on access to E. White’s works in local languages). This may be one explanation for such a high percentage of those who never use a mobile device to read her writings. Another explanation, however, is a lack of awareness among church members that her writings are available online.

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The Internet has the potential to be a great resource – one that can be used to grow our relationships with our Heavenly Father, as well as to engage with our Christian community in a unique way. However, the Internet can also be used for much that is sinful. Ellen White reminds us that: “Where there is an abundance of idleness, Satan works with his temptations to spoil life and character.”[4]  We must be cautious that we are using this wonderful resource for our edification and growth, not allowing ourselves to be “led into temptation.”

It should also be noted that technology–including social media, apps, and the Internet, at large–can never replace the importance of human interaction and our need for the Christian community. While these communication tools can be used to connect with people, stay in touch with family and friends, or even share the gospel, it does not replace our need for face-to-face interactions. “To make disciples, there is a need for the Church to have a physical presence. At its core, the Church is an assembly of people who gather together with each other in person.”[5] That said, many of us are now rethinking how “face-to-face” interactions can take place. Do Adventist websites perhaps need to develop in the direction of providing a platform for personal interface as well as for providing information?

The results of the Global Church Member Surveys provide much to ponder, both for church members and for church leaders. When you consider your own internet and smart phone usage, how often do you utilize it to help you grow spiritually? Now consider: how could you change your habits to use this technology to better enhance your spiritual life? Would you use your electronic devices more often for your personal devotions? Would you be willing to share online resources for spiritual growth with your friends? And what is also important, how can you make changes in your life to ensure that your interactions with others online and in-person are in balance? Also, what do Adventist apps and websites need to do to make their resources more appealing, more useful, more spiritually powerful? What can we do, as individuals and as a Church, to use the power of the Internet more effectively for mission and ministry? And in particular, how can the mobile devices, that are becoming more important than computers, be used more effectively to fulfill the Great Commission: to preach and teach?

 


Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry


[1] The Bible can be accessed on mobile devices by the following methods:
[2]  People use different approaches for personal devotions.
If you use the Sabbath School Quarterly  you can access it on mobile devices by the following methods:
Internet: https://www.sabbathschoolpersonalministries.org/international
iPhone app: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/sabbath-school-quarterly-app/id874958957
Android app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ergonlabs.SabbathSchool&hl=en_US
If you use the Revival and Reformation daily devotions, you can access them on mobile devices by the following methods:
Internet: https://www.revivalandreformation.org/devotional
Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.flaviosilva.rpsp.Full&hl=en_US
[3] Ellen G. White’s writings can be accessed on mobile devices by the following methods:
Internet: https://egwwritings.org/
iPhone app: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/egw-writings/id374790551
Android app: https://play.google. com/store/apps/details?id=egw.estate&hl=en_US
[4] Ellen G. White. Child Guidance, 123. Manuscript 43, 1900.
[5] Wisnewski, J. (2018). Technology in the Bible: A short guide to Bible verses about technology. Retrieved from https://get.tithe.ly/blog/technology-in-the-bible