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Addicted: When the Smartphone Becomes an Obsession

by Jonathan McKee
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Who is staring at screens more, teens or adults?

When our measuring tape isn’t long enough… does it even matter?

We’ve never had a device like it. It’s the most powerful tool we’ve ever kept in our pocket. It’s the Swiss Army knife of technology. 79.1% of U.S. mobile subscribers have one, 72 % of the entire adult population. (Yes, that includes great grandpa.)

We love our smartphones. The question people are beginning to wonder is…. what effect is this little device having on us?

Are we addicted?


Define obsessed. Is it measured in hours?

The numbers aren’t pretty. We live in a world where U.S. adults spend anywhere from 2.9 to 4.7 hours per day (depending on who’s counting) on our smartphones alone. If you add our time sitting in front of the TV, the computer and all other forms of entertainment media and technology, we clock in 11 to12 hours a day. That’s just the average.

Think about that for a moment. The average adult is only awake 15 hours a day. Do the math. This doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to walk the dog, get coffee with a friend… or play with your children!

Picture what this looks like in the typical home: the adults are staring at the TV, the teens are streaming video on a mobile device, the toddler is flicking colored shapes across the screen of a new iPad… and the dog is on the treadmill because no one walks him.

This isn’t a single-generational issue. Boomers and Xers love to try to make this a Millennial thing (Gen Y). It’s not even a teenage thing (Gen Z). Stop blaming young people. The truth is, today’s adults often clock in more hours on technology than teenagers. Adults definitely watch more TV (check any Nielsen report, any day of the year—the older the person, the more hours watched), but they also were more prone to peek at their social media on any given day. In fact, a recent study just showed 25-54 year-olds were the most compulsive social-media checkers.

And if you add up all entertainment media? The most conservative reports show adults soaking in almost 10 hours a day (Nielsen, 2016), and the most accurate teen studies show 13-18-year-olds averaging just under 9 hours per day.

Don’t get snow blinded with the numbers. Allow yourself to step back and consider the big picture for a moment. All of us spend the majority of our waking hours absorbing entertainment media and technology.

Priorities are becoming a little bit confused. The overwhelming majority of Americans spend more time staring at a screen than talking with their partner. But I guess those partners shouldn’t be offended, we even stare at screens when we’re staring at other screens. Eighty-eight percent of people actively entertain a second screen while watching TV.

Guess what the device of choice is?

So how do smartphone-obsessed adults connect with smartphone-obsessed kids? That’s the project I just finished, my brand new book titled 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid. And it’s been fun exploring the venues where families seem to naturally open up and just talk with each other without having to say, “Put away your phone!”

What are some of these venues in your home?

When is the last time you and your kids engaged in meaningful conversation?

How can you maximize and even create more settings like this where your family truly connects face-to-face?

Jonathan McKeeJonathan McKee is the author of twenty books including the brand new 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; More Than Just the Talk;Sex Matters; The Guy’s Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, and You can follow Jonathan on his blog
, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

Seeing and Hearing Sermons


“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16).

In life, we always hear interesting sayings. One of the adages I have always found most interesting is one that some parents say to their children: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

This is essentially communicating, demonstrating and teaching our children to ignore actions. If one ascribes to this parenting style, it makes it difficult to teach children and to lead by example. Furthermore, this approach seems to contradict a wise adage sometimes heard in the church: “I would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon.” This adage’s meaning is in direct opposition to “do what I say, not what I do” and of what we should be communicating to the world as followers and disciples of Jesus Christ.

When people say “do what I say, not what I do,” they are instructing or communicating the other person to ignore and disregard their action, behavior and conduct and only give credence or regard to the words that are said. On the other hand, “I would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon” sends a message that actions and demonstrated teachings are much more important, influential and profoundly persuasive than words that may be empty. As followers and disciples of Christ, we are obligated to act upon Christ’s teachings. Through the demonstration of love, truth, hope, grace, mercy, redemption, forgiveness and salvation, we shine the light of Christ. Through shining the light of Christ, we are fulfilling and achieving the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20). Thus, by going out and being fishers of men and women and their hearts and souls, we are leading people to the Great Fisher of men and women and bringing disciples of Christ (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17).

As followers and disciples of Christ, the adage of “I would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon” is more aligned with our calling.


The Struggle in Change



Creation of the world and all its creatures required change, a lot of change. God saw beauty, purpose and possibility in bringing forth something new and different.

But we tend to resist, sometimes with a destructive outcome. We tend to want to hold on to what we know, the familiar, what is common or feels easy. We like the predictable, always buying popcorn at the movies or that same brand of socks. The challenge with this is we are here to grow and to glorify. We are not here to remain just us.

I have driven to work the same way for 12 years — the same streets, turned on the same corners, stopped at the same lights. It is easy for me to zone out and just use muscle memory. Last week, construction took me three blocks further west — not a big deal but a minor irritation. I leave extra time driving to work so I knew it would fine. I would still be on time, and tomorrow I would return to my old way. But driving on this different street, just three blocks down, I found that the traffic lights changed more rapidly than my usual path. I didn’t sit as long at each light, and I didn’t zone. I stayed present seeing new stores, faces and a type of tree — which wasn’t on my usual drive — covered in blooms of bright coral flowers. Because the lights changed quickly, even with my detour, I arrived at the office in a shorter amount of time than before.

So a question comes to mind: If we hold on to our usual routine, allow ourselves to react and respond as we are comfortable in doing, and do not take risks or stretch ourselves beyond what we know, how are we allowing God to have power and sovereignty over us? It is only in our giving over ourselves that we are saved. It is only in our willingness to become more Christlike that we grow as He has planned. The Great Commission is to go out into the lands professing His name.

Many people in the Bible were desperate enough or desirous enough to know Christ that they chose, one time, differently. The bleeding woman, the leper and Mary pouring out her perfumed oil on Jesus’ feet in worship are all examples of being audacious and having that bring change and blessing. God gave us free will to encourage us to be willing to change, turn away from our humanness (our sins) and choose to follow Him. Choosing God is a change, a transformation as we align ourselves instead with what He desires.

I have a wonderful opportunity as a psychotherapist to work with people who are frustrated, hurting or confused in their lives. They come to me realizing that they need change, to learn something new, to experiment so their lives can be calmer, smoother, healthier and, at the same time, glorifying. The steps they must take can be scary, hard, and certainly uncomfortable.

I worked with a woman who had a phobia of elevators. She would not set foot within a building that had one. That doesn’t sound too debilitating, but if you start to take notice, most two or more story buildings have elevators. We began our work exploring the history around her fear and current coping skills to come up with a strategy to help her overcome. I showed her photos, we went to the outside of buildings, and step-by-step helped her move beyond her fear. It was a one-week process from start to finish. We walked in the building, looked at the elevator, touched the door and the button, one foot in and then both. We slowly moved her in further and further to help her find a new strength and center, one that was becoming freer and calmer just like our promise from God. She learned to align within differently. She saw when she centered upon her fears, she was scared, overwhelmed and immobile. On the seventh day, the day of rest, she was able to go up and down in an elevator 13 stories high. For her, it was no longer an impossibility or an unlucky number. When we allow God to guide, He tells us how many stories to go in every situation. Knowing He is with us, our lives change.

Heather Browne, Psy.D., is a psychotherapist and a member of Living Spring Church in Garden Grove, California. She also is an author and poet whose writings have appeared in Parenting, Thriving Family and many other magazines and journals. Learn more about her at


1. Where are you aligning yourself on a fear or a habit that limits God and your freedom or flexibility? Where are you stuck?

2. What have you always wanted to try or experience, and how can you allow God to help you explore it?

9 Sins the Church Is Okay With

Are we changing the Bible to fit our culture or are we changing our culture to fit the Bible?


I was in an engineering class the first time I watched the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Even though I wasn’t alive when it happened, I caught a glimpse of the horror thousands must have felt as the events unfolded.

And, the first question everyone wanted to know was, “What happened?”

After months of investigation, here’s what the Rogers Commission (the group commissioned to investigate the explosion) discovered: an o-ring seal in the right solid rocket booster failed at take-off. I won’t bore you with the details, but an o-ring is a small device relative to the size of a space shuttle. Very small.

It wasn’t something huge, like a puncture in the rocket booster or a hole in the cabin, that caused this disaster. It was a small, seemingly insignificant, o-ring failure.

I think there’s a lesson here for the church. What if the big sins, you know the ones you try hardest to avoid, aren’t the greatest threat to your joy and the church’s mission?

Maybe it’s the sins lying underneath, the ones considered normal or acceptable, the ones going undetected, that are affecting the church the most. I want to address 9 of these sins.


Christ, the Cross and Change




As I write this article, I reflect on the biggest moment of change in the story of humanity, Jesus Christ’s resurrection. I believe it is the greatest moment in our history because the ripple effects affect us in such a way as to require us to make substantial change in our lives as well. If Jesus died and did not rise, it would have been a waste and a lie. However, because I believe Jesus is my personal Savior and King, I am allowed and required to also die and be reborn in obedience to God.

My daughter, Ariana, is sharp and analytical. Even in her young age, she often has great insight. Some time ago, I joked with her, “Ari, can you just stop growing?” Not understanding my humor, she looked baffled at my request. She responded, “Daddy, if I stop growing, then it means I will die.” While that is a cute moment and response, she cannot be more right. She will die if she does not grow.

Ari continued to explain to me that if she stops eating and sleeping, then she will not be able to continue to live. Taking this illustration a step further, analyzing our own spiritual growth as a body of believers in Christ (who calls us to change our lives), we risk getting dangerously close to a lifeless time on earth if we are not growing.

The marvelous Good News is that we have access to beating death. The reason the greatest change in history occurred with Jesus’ resurrection is because He promises us the same power that raised Him from the dead. The same Holy Spirit can live within and among us. The same Father is looking out for us.

In my work and life, I sometimes encounter people who are adverse to change. They often say things like, “I just don’t like change” or “I don’t do change well.” If we are believers of the Good News and followers of Christ, we are called to change everyday. Everyday change is the reality of sanctification.

I love reading the stories in the New Testament where Jesus calls individuals to change their lives. My favorite stories are the ones where Jesus doesn’t even ask; the person just offers it. I’d like to be like that. I’d like my life to change so rapidly that it’s not even a request from others.

Can you imagine what that type of life would do for your marriage, your family or your church? These words from Romans 12:2 come to mind: “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT).

The command here is to offer ourselves to God. We are offered as people who have been brought from death to life. Romans 6:13 continues to call us to giving our entire selves to God — to using our bodies as living sacrifices to do what is right for the glory of God.

By these standards, we are called to be a body that is ever-changing. Some of us are veterans in the world of applying change, but it doesn’t make change any less scary. Experience just makes it a little more comfortable. In fact, for me, not being in a state of perpetual change is more uncomfortable.

Most members of my generation embrace change. I recently read in Fast Company magazine that the new standard for holding a single job before changing is now three years! The important thing to consider is not just to make changes in your life for the sake of change, but to make changes in your life that reflect growth and multiplication of the movement of Jesus in your life.

Change is almost always scary if it is the right change. My good friend Rob McKenna, the executive director of Seattle Pacific University’s Center for Leadership Research & Development, challenged me to read some scripture in a different light.

In Mark 10:32–34, Jesus leads the way to Jerusalem. He walks ahead of the group (going first) and the disciples were filled with awe and fear. They heard Jesus’ prediction and were on their way to the cross.

I can’t imagine the fear I would feel knowing the upcoming moments, yet they were faithful and followed. I don’t always know God’s plan. In fact, I almost never do, but I am certain of one thing. I must me prepared to drop my plans and change my path to follow the Holy Spirit.

Jay Cordova is an ordained elder who serves as the director of communications for the Free Methodist Church – USA. He previously worked as a startup business entrepreneur and coached small businesses in a Michigan incubator.

Change Takes Time, Time Makes Change




Many reference Revelation 10:6 as an indication that time will cease to exist when the end times unfold. The linguistic accuracy of the original King James Version translation has been called into question by some theologians, instigating some debate about this theory. However, the implications of existing in eternity (“and they will reign for ever and ever” Revelation 22:5 NIV) — rather than in a finite period of time like we do now — will regardless necessitate a shift in our relationship with time when we reach heaven.

So what does this have to do with change? Why broach a potentially provocative subject like the specifics of how heaven will work?

Here’s the rub: Time and change seem to be fundamentally interdependent. Change takes time. Time spawns change. When we seek to improve ourselves, we can only do so over time or — in even the quickest cases — in a finite, citable moment of time. If this is true and the two (time and change) are by nature linked, does that imply that in heaven there will be no more change?

Change causes pain. This could look like the surprise and dismay when someone asks us to change something about ourselves, or perhaps the discomfort of adopting a new regimen or lifestyle to bring about a physical change. It could manifest as the struggle and anxiety you feel when someone else refuses to change in a way that you know would benefit them, or the fear caused by knowing change is coming whether we like it or not. Revelation 21:4 tells us that when Jesus returns, “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” So does this imply there will be no more change in heaven?

Whether or not change will be possible in heaven is an interesting, musing question that we can save for friendly debates over coffee or for the hallways of a seminary. However, one thing I know is that right now in this world where time, pain and change all preside with some degree of unavoidable governance, we are presented a unique opportunity.

When I train physically, whether a timed run or sets of exercises in the gym, the following mantra has proven motivating. I tell myself that while I still have time, while there are still seconds on the clock, I have the opportunity to dig in and work toward improvement.

I had a college basketball coach who would proselytize a similar notion: that we had the choice during each and every drill between “surviving” and “thriving.” By choosing to survive, we could coast and do the bare minimum. We could choose to work hard only when he was looking. We could cut corners and skimp on what we were asked to do. But as long as there were still practices left before the first game of the season, as long as remaining seconds still gleamed on the clock, as long as we were still (sometimes agonizingly) putting one foot in front of the other in a dead sprint, we still had time to change and improve. That’s how I see our days here on this earth.

Right now, you and I still have time. Each morning we wake up, we can decide whether we are going to coast or instead going to put forth effort to “survive or thrive.” We can choose whether we are going to invest in changing ourselves or decide that the way we are is good enough or throw in the towel. Time is quite a gift. It’s a vote of confidence in us straight from God. It’s an opportunity to work toward positive change. I encourage you to take the opportunity.

Lauren Schwaar is a college basketball coach, a freelance writer and a 2013 graduate of Greenville College.


  1. Does God require that we change?
  2. What is something about yourself that you’d like to change? What will it take to achieve that change?
  3. How can you take a positive step toward that change today?

The Not-So-Hidden Effects of Porn

The Habit May Be Secret…But Not Its Consequences
An article from David R. Smith at
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Porn is a $97 billion-per-year enterprise. That equates to millions upon millions of users worldwide, many of them being impressionable adolescents. Most of them just want a habit that involves a few clicks and a quick clean up.

But real life setbacks keep getting in the way.

The Secret Sabotage
TIME Magazine’s cover in mid-April headlined porn and our own Jonathan McKee blogged about it. Essentially, the piece focused on the “threat to virility” that porn often brings about in its male users. TIME wasn’t the first major periodical to talk about the benefits of breaking free from porn;GQ did it back in 2013 when they gave readers “10 Reasons Why You Should Quit Watching Porn.” But there are other unwanted effects of porn use, and they deserve their own brief, if painful, discussion.


Living Free Through Change


You’ll see a lot of compelling things if you spend enough time at the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley in Youngstown, Ohio. While many people might assume that an emergency shelter for the homeless would be filled with lazy individuals who aren’t interested in working for a living, I’ve come to find that the majority of the time the exact opposite is true.

Most of the people who enter through our doors are looking to better their lives in one way or another, whether that be through seeking a job in workforce development, saving their Social Security income into our savings program until they can afford an apartment, or dedicating a year of their lives to the Rescue Mission Discipleship Academy.

The Discipleship Academy is a yearlong residency program where men who have come to the end of themselves decide to dedicate their lives to the change that only Christ can offer. Through daily biblical education classes taught by pastors, service opportunities, and community events, men are challenged to experience true change through Jesus. Many of these men have pasts with addictions, and these individuals are often literally facing death if they aren’t willing to embrace change. In fact, some of them have already died several times and been revived by medical teams after an overdose.


Change, Change and More Change




I am convinced that much of the church in the United States, the Free Methodist Church included, needs change, change and more change. Even a quick glance at what is happening around and among us should be enough to convince us that the church simply must change. In the U.S., most denominations are in decline, and some of them must “pull up” soon or they will “crash and burn.”

Denominations that are growing in the U.S., like the FMC, often show modest growth at best. A closer look, however, is not as encouraging. Most of these churches are growing thanks to new church plants, “out-of-the box” ministry initiatives and outreach to an increasing number of ethnic groups around them. At the same time, an alarming number of their existing churches (as many as half or more) are “stuck” or in serious decline. Thus, even for “growing” denominations, many local churches are headed for certain closure unless something changes — unless they change.

Why should this be so alarming? What’s wrong with just maintaining? Where does the Bible say change is good, and more change can be even better? Especially if it’s just change for change’s sake? Well, let’s take a step back, a deep breath, and look carefully at these questions.

First, note how very different it has been in other parts of the world. In Africa, for example, at the beginning of the 20th century, something like 2 percent of sub-Saharan Africa could be called Christian in any sense. Then the modern missionary movement began and, in less than 100 years, more than 50 percent of the same region has become Christian. The movement of Jesus there has experienced exponential growth. The same story can be told about South America and much of Asia during this same time period.

In other words,


What IS a big deal online for teenagers?