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CHRISTIAN LIFE IN LONDON | SPRING 2024 EDITION
Prayer Prompt February 2023
Re-Wired for Ministry

CURRENT COMMUNITY STORIES
Pulled Out of the Rabbit Hole
Meet the Conspiracy Theorists Who are Turning to Christ
London Pregnancy & Family Support Centre is Doing Something Different And You’re Invited to Join In
Change Is Hard to Do!
Three Ways to Handle Change
BookMark - One Wrong Move (BOOK REVIEW)
Reel Review - Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (MOVIE REVIEW)
“Take Me For A Spin”
The Top 20 Christian Music Albums for Spring 2024
Why Does Servant Leadership Matter So Much?
Hospital Data Shows Longer, Costlier Stays for Patients Experiencing Homelessness
Reflections on Aurora Borealis and the Solar Eclipse



Provided by CCNL (Christian Churches Network of London)

TikTok, dark web, Slack, Twitter, influencer, microblogging, breadcrumbs, Tumblr, Instagram, digital church, apps, Metaverse, Artificial Intelligence, ransomware, cloud storage, data mining, Zoom, smart speakers, googling, brain wiring, trolls & bots……oh my!

We could fill pages with new and/or old words that have shifted in current meaning not even imagined twenty-five years ago. Back then, a troll lived under a bridge. These words appear in our daily newsfeeds, information, education and conversations, embedded in everyday language. Some elicit negative reactions, some represent positive extraordinary advancements, and many are just neutral - functional new tools that have rapidly transformed how we learn, think, shop, do business, cook and communicate every day. People born after 1980 are considered “Digital Natives.” They have never lived in a world without the internet. Those older than forty who grew up with print, television and home phones are referred to as “Digital Immigrants”. It is perhaps more nuanced than simply that! However, this millennial observation might make you smile: “Having grown up online, the under-30’s are digital natives, but this hasn't stopped a new breed of many older digital immigrants enthusiastically flocking to the web. You might spot digital immigrants because they still print off emails or online cartoons to share, use complete sentences and/or type with fingers rather than thumbs.” All may make broad observations/conclusions about “the other”, but let’s instead choose to be gracious as we keep on learning and praying together, welcoming God to enter our common digital world.

In I Chronicles 12, there is a thought-provoking verse amidst chapters full of names and genealogies. It says “The men of Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” - a good example. As men and women of faith, we are likewise compelled to seek to understand our changing culture, eager to learn more about how this explosion of technology is affecting our lives. These new skills and solutions can be amazing gifts for ministry, offering more ways to share our faith and do good in the world. We need to commit all our technology devices to you, God. We ask your Holy Spirit within us to speak into these explorations today about the influences of technology in our lives.

Hear our prayers Lord…we pray about how technology can impact our communication: Father God, thank you for the multiple channels that technology has opened for us to communicate with one another so freely. We can speak face to face with family members across the world, find long lost friends, be at the bedside of a dying loved one far away, upload photos instantly to distant picture frames, even share this prayer prompt with others! We are able to access almost any information instantly. When COVID isolated us, technology provided an amazing means for churches to gather together virtually, pray with friends, remain connected to family. It allowed us to still meet and function at work and our kids to keep on learning. We are very grateful.

God, we recognize that technology also can Impact our relationships negatively. There is a downside of gadgets, interrupting our presence with people. In restaurants, crowds, out for a walk, sitting for coffee…a device can be constantly in our hands. Families gathered around a dinner table all scrolling thru their devices, not talking with each other, laughing at a screen meme or a text no one else sees – parents, friends, children, guests distanced socially and emotionally from each other in the same room. Couples where phones become the third presence in their marriage, even when watching TV together or away on vacation, still scrolling thru screens. God, family counsellors tell us they fear we are losing the art of conversations face to face, intimate friendships, respectful nuanced listening, ability to work through conflicts.

We acknowledge God that screens are impacting our spiritual attention. We confess it is often difficult to focus our thoughts on you solely. To meditate on scripture. To be still and listen for your voice. To pray and talk with you. The ping on the phone or a vibrate on our watch distracts us. We want instant response from you in our prayers like texting offers to us. The actual wiring in our brains’ neural pathways and dopamine responses are changing. Adults in the US now spend an average of 4-6 hours per day watching, typing, tapping, and swiping on their multiple devices. There are thousands of rabbit holes where one tap leads to another, to another, to another … indeed some have become so intimately entwined with our digital lives that we sometimes feel our phones vibrating in our pockets when they aren’t there. A blog post by Trevor Haynes on Harvard.edu commented on this. “Smartphones and the social media platforms they support are turning us into bona fide addicts. While it’s easy to dismiss this claim as hyperbole, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using their products as much as possible. Taking a closer look at the underlying science may give you pause the next time you feel your pocket buzz.” In this hyper socialized environment, we easily assess our value by the number of likes, comments, followers or on-line friends we have. Even happy face emojis can give us instant satisfaction more than the smile on the face potentially standing in front of us. We pray earnestly to know that our true worth is in you God – you who made us for a purpose, who deeply loves us, who sees us and who welcomes us regardless of what we have done. God, help us to take this as seriously as we would any other addiction and turn to you. Author of “The Wired Soul”, Tricia Rhodes, words it this way: “Our capacity to live soulful lives is at grave risk.”

Lord, help us to wisely consider how technology impacts our memory. November’s prayer prompt was about thanking you God for the gift of memory. Researchers express concerns that we are not exercising our memory muscles as we once did…we are leaving that task to our numerous devices, even editing memories for us. All we need to remember is passwords! Smart speakers may not actually be making us smarter as we do not need to retain information or delve into deeper, more complex understanding – we just ask our “speaker”. If we lose our phones, we panic as we could lose our photos, calendars, contacts, our “brains”. In scripture, you exhort us God to remember…storing away lessons, events, information, questions and answers - both good and bad that inform the future, shape character, enhance discernment and bring comfort and/or warnings to our souls. Help us commit precious moments of our lives to our memories daily, not pass them off to an algorithm to decide for us." Memory is also critical as it impacts profoundly our knowledge of the Bible. Amazingly, we can tap two or three words in a search engine in a bible app, and it finds suitable verses for us. Forget bible memory sword drills of the past! But maybe we miss the context and the depth of meaning, the richness of the story of the Kingdom unfolding, the breadth of scripture... or make room for your Spirit to move in and imprint those words on our hearts and lives. We quickly scan your word, maybe press 'copy' to cut and paste without pausing to thoughtfully ponder them. "Eat your Book" author Eugene Peterson urges us to chew on them for your purposes God, to metabolize them to be used, just like the prophet Jeremiah shares : "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty" Jeremiah 15:16. Make us hungrier to feast on reading Scripture, which then can make us better hearers and doers of your words God.

Technology can dangerously impact our perception of truth. This should not be a surprise to any of us that not everything we read on-line is true or edifying, life-giving, or full of any grace, hope or love. Because most social media platforms are free, they rely on advertisers’ revenue to make profit. It wants us to covet someone else’s life, to portray a perfect life as something it is not, even alter our photos. It tempts us to snoop on other people’s lives, like peeking in their windows. The intent ultimately creates a battle for our attention and time. The algorithms track what we browse - tracking foods we like; books we read; topics we look up; rumors, theories, and ideas we pursue; then keeps throwing temptations at us ever so carefully. Quick easy access to pornography, online gambling and spending way beyond our limits destroys trust and breeds destruction. Look at this picture, try this miracle health food, see this movie, follow this person, read this blog – curating the input of those who want us. Scary, as so quickly we wasted precious hours of our lives. Above all else, mindful use of our screens is the best tool we have against lies, lust, greed, hate and envy. Holy Spirit, provoke us constantly to ask you for the power and wisdom to shut off the devices and to recognize when we need to seek professional help with our addictions. Next time we pick up our phone or browse at length on the computer, shout at us God these questions - “Is this really worth my time? Is this how you want me to spend my day? Is this leading me closer to becoming the person you created me to be Lord? What do I need to be better equipped for ministry, to love my family well, and to bring honour to your name, God?”

Technology is Impacting our anxiety levels and mental health. We have invited so much violence, horror and simple evil into our lives. Binge watching Netflix or other streaming services has become a kind of drug of choice. We equate entertainment somehow with killing. Fear takes root. Bitterness is affirmed. Children and teens are exposed to way too much hatred. On-line bullying goes beyond mean teasing. It is cruel and vicious. Make us more diligent and discerning into what we let into our homes, but even more into our minds. Help us protect our kids and seek out tools to help both them and us be more resilient, strong, compassionate, caring and cautious in this virtual new world.

Technology has impacted our churches. Considerable monetary and focus investments have been made by churches on much production equipment and skilled tech-savvy staff for both social media messaging and on-line production. It gives us extraordinary capacity to potentially connect with people who may never walk in the front door of a church. It creates opportunity to extend the experience of church way beyond the sacred Sunday hour of 11-12 a.m. habits of bygone eras. It acknowledges the busyness of lives, provides greater accessibility for those confined to home, availability for those who work shift work or weekends – church on demand. However, we acknowledge that true church community and the privileges of cultivating trusting relationships, engaging hospitality, healthy discipleship, sabbath rhythms of reconciliation and entering into the suffering of others cannot be achieved by solely an eye-catching website, daily Facebook posts, high quality production worship teams, or more on-line blogs or pod-casts. That is not to say that these are not worthy of our best efforts. But most in secular culture are simply not suddenly going on church websites to discover God – a few may. Hard to tell. But authentic community is still people to people-to-people where you can taste and see the Word made flesh in us thru Jesus. How will people know who Jesus is? Romans 12 says:"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you".

Finally, make us more aware God that there is not equity or fairness in the use of technology. There are those who cannot afford the constant upgrades, the cost of services, nor do they live in safe places to access or use them. There are those who do not have the skills, training or computer literacy to navigate increasingly complicated worlds of on-line transactions, forms, and communications. How encouraging to hear many touching stories in church communities over the last three years where some went and shared their tech devices and expertise with those who otherwise would be isolated from church services…and/ or to help connect others with family members on-line. Bless those thoughtful helpers, Lord, who willingly assist some to complete application forms for EI, ODSP, housing…to do research on whatever info is needed for those who cannot do it for themselves. But provoke us to do more God – may we individually, as churches, as well as educational and government leadership work to close the gap in on-line accessibility.

We give it all back to you God to use for your Kingdom’s sake. Your will be done in how, when, why and what we do with all these new and emerging technologies. Let us steward these gifts well.

AMEN.


P.s. A special invitation for if you want to understand more about Youth and the Digital world, Youth For Christ is hosting an event Thursday Feb. 23rd for parents and families with Youth Culture specialist Paul Robertson at 7 p.m., or Friday morning Feb. 24th 8 a.m.-10 a.m for youth workers and youth pastors. See www.yfclondon.ca for more info or email karen_king@yfclondon.ca