As you may know, the use of smartphones in church meetings has been a very controversial subject. Some churches take a dogmatic stance and say it is positively wrong to use one, with some going even further and outlawing the use of smartphones altogether. Other churches are equally dogmatic and say it is okay to use cell phones as long as it is on “silent” and some go even further and encourage their use so you can: 1) check other Bible versions; 2) check out commentaries; or 3) use other useful tools such as lexicons or concordances while listening to a Bible message or a Bible study. I don’t take a dogmatic position either way and I’ll explain why by using a verse that “could” support either view.

The verse I’m referring to is 1st Corinthians 10:23 where the Apostle Paul said, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” The context in which Paul writes is the of CHRISTIAN LIBERTY. When he states “All things are lawful for me” he is NOT referring to immoral things such as stealing or fornication; he is referring to things that in and of themselves are not sinful. This means there are many “things” that a Christian has perfect liberty to use or participate in, but then Paul goes on to qualify that statement by saying, “but all things are not helpful” and “not all things edify.” I believe the using of smartphones in church meetings should be based on this scripture. So, what one should be asking is, “Will using my smartphone in church meetings serve to help me and bring me edification?” We should also go a step further and ask, “Will using my smartphone in church meetings serve to HELP OTHERS and BRING THEM EDIFICATION.” This is a legitimate question for the very next verse says, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.” One must be brutally honest in answering these two questions and if they are, the Spirit of God will lead them to make the right decision.

I do believe what may be right for one may be wrong for another. One believer may truly stay focused on using their phone for looking up other translations that are being used in the meeting so they can follow along more easily. They may also look up HELPFUL and EDIFYING commentaries that may be used to share with others in a Bible study group. And lastly, they may avoid the possible snares of being DISTRACTED by checking emails, sending texts, looking up the scores of sporting events that are currently taking place, and other activities that have nothing to do with the church meeting they are in. Another believer may be easily DISTRACTED, not only by using the cell phone for other “things” not connected with the church meeting, but also by focusing too much on various helps (commentaries, Bible dictionaries, lexicons, etc.) and losing sight of the message that is being preached or the Bible study that is in progress.

So, let’s assume one is able to control themselves and use their smartphone properly without being distracted and by using it for their edification and the edification of others. There is still the question, “Is my use of my smartphone HELPFUL AND EDIFYING TO ALL?” Paul goes on in the chapter to speak of how some MAY BE STUMBLED by my actions and end up JUDGING ME. Why is that? Because their CONSCIENCE is telling them IT IS WRONG. In those cases, Paul goes on to say we shouldn’t use our liberty “for conscience’ sake” (verse 28) and he adds, “Conscience, I say, not YOUR OWN, but that of THE OTHER. For why is my liberty JUDGED BY ANOTHER MAN’S CONSCIENCE” (verse 29). The bottom line is this: You may have perfect liberty to use your smartphone but with a brother/sister sitting by you that has a WEAK CONSCIENCE (who does NOT see their liberty in Christ to do this), you should avoid using your phone out of respect for their conscience.

I will also add that if you insist on using your phone it may lead to the “weak brother” deciding to use his phone too even though his conscience is telling him it’s wrong. Paul addressed this possibility in 1st Corinthians 8:10-13 (where “the eating of food offered to idols” is being discussed but can easily be substituted by “using a smartphone in church meetings”). That passage reads, “For it anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the CONSCIENCE OF HIM WHO IS WEAK BE EMBOLDENED TO EAT THOSE THINGS OFFERED TO IDOLS? And because of your knowledge shall the WEAK BROTHER PERISH, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and WOUND THEIR WEAK CONSCIENCE, you sin against Christ. Therefor, if food MAKES MY BROTHER TO STUMBLE, I WILL NEVER AGAIN EATH MEAT, LEST I MAKE MY BROTHER STUMBLE.” This really brings out the seriousness of stumbling a fellow-believer, for if they imitate our actions it will violate their conscience and they will PERISH. What does that mean? The word “perish” has nothing to do with losing one’s salvation; it has to do with the “loss of WELL-BEING.” Their walk with the Lord will break down and they will lose their testimony before the world.  (462.5)  (DO)