July 1st, 2011
05:00 AM ET

My Take: Wired pastor says unplug

Editor's Note: Craig Groeschel is the founder and senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv. He, his wife, Amy, and their six children live in Edmond, Okla., where LifeChurch.tv began in 1996. A bestselling author, his latest new book is called "WEIRD: Because Normal Isn’t Working."

By Craig Groeschel, Special to CNN

Like millions of people, I Twitter, Facebook and blog. Though I hesitate to admit it, I even take my iPhone into the bathroom with me — just in case I need to do a little extra business (pun intended). Since we live in a tech-savvy world, our church, LifeChurch.tv, loves to leverage technology to spread the message of faith in Christ.

Our church was honored to create The Bible App, a free tool to help people engage with God’s word. The Bible App has been installed on more than 19 million unique devices (and counting). And last year alone, our Church Online services drew nearly 3 million unique visits.

It’s safe to say I’m a little like Kip singing to LaFawnda, “Yes, I love technology.” And like the majority of people, I spend most of my days immersed in technology, whether it’s in a constant stream of e-mails, texts, online posts, and cell phone conversations, or looking into the lens of a video camera.

One day when I came home from the office a couple of years ago, I set my iPhone on the kitchen counter as I walked into the house. I had switched out of “work mode” and into “family mode,” prepared to give my undivided attention to my wife and our six kids for the evening. With that many people in the house, it seems like it’s never quiet. But on this late afternoon, it was … eerily so.

I started looking around for everybody, and what I discovered was a series of tiny islands, each person immersed in their own little world. My wife Amy was on her laptop writing curriculum for a Bible study. One daughter was listening to her iPod as she surfed Facebook, and another was checking e-mail. Two kids were playing Club Penguin and Webkinz — on separate computers. At least the last two I found were together, although they were playing Wii, so they were both transfixed on the screen.

In our culture, there is nothing unusual about this scenario. It plays out this same way in countless homes every evening. But this episode brought it home for me: Although I was comfortable that everyone in our family loved each other, I realized we were gradually allowing the flicker of little screens to draw us away, running the risk of ultimately becoming isolated from one another.

That night, Amy and I had a long talk that led to what would become a controversial decision: We limited technology use in our home to just three days a week. That meant that for four days, there would be no television, no iPods, no Facebooking, and no feeding tiny digital pets—even if it meant, sadly, that they would starve.

We gathered everyone together to fully explain what we were thinking and why. We knew it sounded weird to them. But we also believed that if you want a life that few people have, you have to do things that few people are willing to do.

Immediately after the kids heard us out, our youngest son, Bookie, sequestered his brother and sisters in his room for an emergency summit. I learned later that Bookie plotted to unify the troops to overthrow our oppressive regime at the first opportunity. Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed, and our kids decided they’d at least go along and see how this new system would play out.

It took a while for the childrens' desire for that electronic buzz to wane, but once it did, it was as though our entire family woke up from a lazy afternoon nap. We traveled back to a simpler time, when people sat on the front porch together and talked.

We rediscovered board games and picnics. Now when I come home from work, I have to slip into the house undetected, because my sons routinely lie in wait to ambush me with elaborate traps, usually involving a decoy, followed by wrestling and karate. I’ve read more books with my kids during the last couple of years than I probably read during my entire stint in college. We practice telling each other stories, competing for bragging rights about whose is the funniest story ever told. We actually listen to each other.

This whole shift felt really odd at first, like we were giving something up. But what we got in return is worth far more. It’s intimate. It’s genuine connection. Honestly, we couldn’t go back now if we wanted to. The kids would never settle for things like they were before.

We’re weird … and we’re blissfully happy together.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Craig Groeschel

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Movies • Music • Oklahoma • Technology • TV • United States

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    November 1, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  3. Red And White Wedding Dresses

    I enjoy, lead to I discovered just what I was looking for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

    April 3, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  4. James Black


    July 5, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  5. John

    Everyone should start watching "All in the family" and get an eyeful and earful of what like is really like!

    July 4, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  6. wilbur

    You have your Rock, I have my Rock.......can't we just let each other be? If I want to be sold on a religion, I will check e-bay first.

    July 3, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Odessa

      Wilbur, you don't have the Rock you need. The Bible says those who try to purchase salvation with money go to hell. Be thankful to Christians for telling you the truth. Everyone needs the truth whether you like it or not.

      July 4, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  7. justathought

    Family is not just those who live in the same house, it's everyone you associate with. I to live alone to, but my family are those who I share life with: those who I call on the phone or share e-mail with (they live in other states) it's those I visit with, or have lunch with. It's my friends.

    July 3, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  8. WonderSpring

    American Christians are so gentle and good. God bless them!

    July 3, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  9. justathought

    HEY! What happened here? I know I came in late, but this aricle was not about religion–it's about family life! All families need 'family life'! The author did not ban the electronic life, he just cut it down to a reasonable size so there could be some family life. I think a lot of you pepole have turned this into an unreasonable argument. Someone said, "Get a life!", we expand that a little and "Get a family life!".

    July 3, 2011 at 1:59 am |
    • Tunk

      And for those without families? What would you suggest?

      July 3, 2011 at 2:40 am |
    • News Flash

      Get a family, (in whatever form). Duh.

      July 3, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  10. Marie Kidman


    July 2, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  11. apostate

    He should unplug from delusional beliefs.

    July 2, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • n0t @rrog@nt

      No, that would be you and people like you.

      July 5, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  12. WonderSpring

    Computer is better than TV in that American atheists can never be warned on their stupidity through TV but through internet they can be.

    July 2, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  13. Sherii

    This makes sense. My husband and I don't have a T.V. But, we do have droids. If we aren't careful, it is easy to be in the same space and not engage.

    July 2, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  14. WonderSpring

    Atheists are so evil they can't leave us believers alone. They are the same in commies' countries or in Sodom. The most wretched, pitiful species in the universe. Psalm 14 and 53. When the Bible repeats something, it is an extra confirmation. American Christians, no more stupid political correctness or brainwashing. Rise up, even for your children. You're dealing with something worse than Soviets now.

    July 2, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • ReeMM

      To be fair, there are an awful lot of believers who don't leave atheists alone either . . .

      July 2, 2011 at 5:36 am |
    • WonderSpring

      Ree, we tell them the vital Good News that everyone needs. Atheists push their meaningless despair with filthy language upon everyone. Foundational difference is there.

      July 2, 2011 at 7:42 am |
    • Wings

      It is precisely this type of commentary (and other "revelations") that I am no longer a believer. I am not evil. I put much greater stock in science, rational thinking, and coming to the eventual realization that man-made religion is hocus-pocus nonsense. Believe what you want, but I would dispute your assertion that we "atheists are so evil they can't leave us believers alone." How am I bothering you, when you are the one espousing your bible verses to attack me and others?

      Who is more brainwashed?

      July 4, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • WonderSpring

      Wings, your preference does not matter. Yes, you are evil because you deny the Creator God, and you need fact-telling. Science is discovering and applying in God's world. Christianity is from God; atheism is man-made. You atheists bother us like a hell by your unceasing des-pi-cable blasphemies. Just shut up about God, if you don't know Him or if you don't believe Him.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.