Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast we have with us John Lehman, who’s a Pastor of Member Care and Missions at Hampton Park Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He also serves not only his church there in member care, but he serves with ACBC as a member and a Fellow and we’re so grateful for John and his ministry there. He and his wife Suzy have four married children and eight grandchildren. We’re so thankful for John and his ministry there at Hampton Park and the way he serves us as well. This week Taron Defevers, our Communications Coordinator, was able to sit down with John and discuss this often very difficult and dicey issue of technology.
How do we use it? How do we employ it? Is this a good thing? Is it a blessing or a curse? Is it a raging beast or can it be tamed? We have these questions all the time about technology. Is it useful for a good or is it something that only tears down? John’s going to help us to understand this from a biblical perspective and to think about the subject wisely. Taron, thank you for sitting down with John and helping us listen in on this.
Taron Defevers: Today we’re going to talk about technology and whether technology is a raging or tamed beast. With me I have John Lehman and we’re so glad that you are here.
John Lehman: Thank you very much. I’ll expound on why that title “a raging or tamed beast” came about. I’ve been familiar with farming, been familiar with cowboys, and a stallion who’s broken is very valuable, but a stallion that is not tamed is worthless. Therefore, I applied that idea to our technology—our phones, our iPods, our iPads, whatever we have. If we don’t control them, they’re really dangerous. But if we control them, they’re really valuable.
Taron Defevers: Technology is such a relevant topic. Everyone’s got a piece of technology basically in their back pocket as we speak, or in their car listening to this. We all interact with technology. Why do you see it as such a relevant issue for us to talk about on a biblical counseling podcast?
John Lehman: The topic of that is definitely not how to teach you do spreadsheets or how to do anything that way, it’s really to help us—as Christian leaders, parents, pastors, whatever role the Lord has us—to be in control of our technology. Our world, as you said, it’s infiltrated with technology. You cannot get away from it. With that in mind, we want to make sure that we are harnessing and using it properly, rather than letting it even get us distracted from what we’re supposed to be doing.
Taron Defevers: When you were preparing for the lecture that you gave at our Annual Conference in 2019, you mentioned that this was something that was personal for you in your study. What are some of the ways that you’ve learned as you’ve thought through technology about your own heart response and how to how to think biblically about the use of technology in your life?
John Lehman: I’m old enough to know what it was like to have a landline, and then I was around when suddenly they came up with pagers and I thought that was really cool. I can know somebody needs me to call them! Then of course we went from pagers to those flip phones, or the type that have so many minutes available per month. So you were very careful in how you used those minutes. Then all of a sudden, we went from that to the smartphone with unlimited everything.
When that happened, I was on an electronic leash. In some people’s minds, they thought I was very efficient and on top of it because all day long, at any time, a text came through and I was one of the first ones to respond. Or I would see an email come through and I was sending email responses.
And then I started realizing that the device was controlling me, rather than the other way around. It was a raging beast. Instead of making sure that I was focusing my time on the people that I’m ministering to—my family, wife, counselors, counselees, people even that I’m on the phone with and I see a text come through—if I wasn’t careful I was finding myself distracted and thinking, “Oh, I’ll just do multitasking now.” Then multitasking means you don’t do either one of them very well.
I began being convicted by this thought, and so when I had the privilege of being considered as a lecturer at the 2019 Annual Conference, I thought, “Well, I’m going to do one that I need to work on myself.”
One thing we’ve started implementing in our own home and in life as a couple and a family is that I don’t walk into the home on the phone. That was something that was very easy for me to do. “Oh, I’ll just take this call.” I’m in the car, then walking in the home and there’s no more, “Hi, hon. How are things? How was the day?” Instead it became, “Sorry, I’ll be right with you. I’m talking on the phone.” That began to really impact me. Then the first 30 minutes I’m home would be the perfect time to get conversation started and maybe some some planning next thing, but instead it became, “Excuse me, I need to take this text. I need to respond to this email.”
I was either walking in the home using the phone, or I get home and I’m using the phone to text or email right after getting home. I started letting it even be into our bedroom, to have it charging. Then it became so easy to think, “Oh, I’ll just check this before I go to sleep.” Or when I woke up, “I’ll check that before I do anything else.” I thought I would come up with my own rules, and I would love to challenge any and all of you that are listening, to not necessarily use these as your rules, but control your device. Don’t let it be a raging best, but let it be a tamed one.
A couple of rules we’ve implemented for our home is that when I’m walking in the home, I’m off the phone. The first 30 minutes I’m home, I don’t look at the phone. I leave my phone outside of our bedroom to charge at night. Once I am going in to settle for the night, then it’s no longer part of my life. And then I don’t allow the phone to interrupt anyone.
An illustration that’s been helpful for me to remember is when I was in line at a store—like a JCPenney or a Walmart—to go to customer service. I’m in line, I’ve been waiting for three or four people. I get up there to get my return taken care of, and all of a sudden somebody calls the front desk. And I’ve been in line for 4 people, and the call takes priority over me. To me, I didn’t really like that. Then I started realizing, I’m doing that when I’m talking to someone and I say, “Oh, excuse me. Let me take this phone call.” “Excuse me. Let me reply to this text.” They are my priority and I should not take that over. I don’t allow the phone to interrupt anyone, even though I’m so tempted to think sometimes, “This person might not be available if I don’t take this right now.” I just simply control my beast, wait, and then I’ll try calling them back.
Those are my new rules that I believe will guide me for a long time. And I believe it’s helping already.
Taron Defevers: John, those are all really practical tips and frameworks that you’ve built into your family and I think people will really be appreciative of those as they think through applying those principles in their own life. As Christians, there’s a reason why we would even talk about this topic and a reason that we would even be wanting to put those structures into place. That is that we do want to honor the Lord, glorify God with our lives. We want to love Him. We want to love other people. One of the things that can get in the way of doing that is our phones. I think that’s a lot of what is behind what you’re saying, and the question, is this a tamed beast or is this a raging beast in my life? Would you talk a little bit about how this technology relates to doing all things for the glory of God?
John Lehman: I think one of the greatest opportunities we all have is to love God and love others. We hear that. We seek to do it. We believe we do it. But if I’m not careful, I am going to find my self-worth in how many likes I get on Facebook. I’m going to find my self-worth in how many Kudos I get on Strava. I’m going to find my self-worth in how many people respond to a WhatsApp group message or a text group message. I want to see what people are thinking about me, all the while realizing my self-worth is not found in my electronics. It’s found in my God.
I would love to encourage folks to let their theology and their technology be in the same sphere, and realize that technologically, I understand this phone works maybe about as well as I understand how a car works. I turn on the phone, I turn the key on and it goes. I open my phone up and it works. I’m really limitless in what I can find on this phone. Well, if I’m not careful I let my technology override my theology and I’m not spending my time with my God. I’m not spending my time with meditating. I mean it takes time to meditate. Too often in our technological world, we speed-read, we skim, we scan. Then I start doing that with my Bible reading—I become habitual. I really believe God wants me to meditate, to “be still and know that I am God.” About the only way I can be still and know that He God is to get rid of my phone, get rid of appointments, and just be still.
It’s easy to talk about, and I know it’s something that I believe the Lord will be honored through, and I’m just trusting that what it’s changed in my life I can even help others help technology and theology coincide.
Taron Defevers: Meditation in many ways is like a lost art in the world that we live in. Our phones can be a sign of that in that we can too easily be pleased instead of dwelling on the rich truths of who God is, His character, praying to Him, like even engaging in good spiritual disciplines—like your morning routine. How much of that could be your phone versus how much of that is in prayer, how much of that is in Scripture reading and meditation, or even loving your family in the morning times? Thank you for sharing, John.
John Lehman: Well, it’s been my pleasure to not only have chosen the topic so to speak, and had the privilege to study it—I’m really thankful that I was convicted by it, so that I trust my life will be what God wants it to be for His glory.
Taming Technology by John Lehman: Full Lecture for Free
The Lost Art of Bible Meditation by Stephen Yuille