A church I used to attend wanted to encourage you to turn your cell phone off during the service. But because they were smart, they didn’t say that. Instead, they had a slide shown before church that said:
“Please remember to turn your cell phone back on after church.”
See what they did there? Back when I was a 1920s pugilist, we called that the “ole rope a dope.” They weren’t really concerned that you turn it back on after church.
They were saying, “Turn your phone off before church.” Or more specifically, “Please don’t have your ‘Cee-Lo Green ‘Forget You’ personalized ring tone burst to life during the middle of communion.’”
But even with what I thought was a brilliant approach to requesting people to turn off their phones, sometimes we forget. Or rather we forget to mute them, because we sometimes take notes or look up Bible verses on them. Then a phone rings during the middle of a service, and it’s always in the deepest, most unreachable part of your purse or your pocket. It takes approximately 19 rings to locate, which I am fine with. It happens, but do you know what goes down next?
One Ring of Grace.
The One Ring Of Grace or OROG is what happens when a second phone rings in the sanctuary. We’re all cool with that first guy’s phone. We’ll extend him compassion like crazy. We’ll give him “One Ring of Grace.” But the second guy, who heard the first guy’s phone and didn’t immediately check his own phone to make sure his “God bless the rains down in Africa” by Toto ring tone doesn’t go off, he’s getting no love.
And let’s be honest, if you hear someone’s phone go off in church, what’s the first thing you do? Check your own phone. That’s church law, son!
And, if 15 minutes later, someone else’s phone goes off, what’s the first thing you do?
In times like this, upon making deep observations and bumping into things like the One Ring Of Grace, I always check the Bible. What does God’s word say about this particular issue? You might think it doesn’t address church cell phone interruptions, but you’d be mistaken, my friend. It does.
In Acts 20:9, a guy falls asleep during a long sermon in church and falls out of a window and dies. Let me repeat that, he DIES. (He was later brought back to life, but for drama’s sake, let’s say he DIES.) And unless you’re a Hebrew scholar like me, you might not know that, in ancient times, sleeping in church was considered to be the Aramaic equivalent of letting your cell phone ring, even after someone else’s did. Look it up. I’m almost positive that’s how The Message translates that passage. Could be wrong, but I doubt it.
So if you’re even a little tempted right now to write a comment like, “This is why people don’t like going to church! We’re so judgmental! We’re so unwelcoming. I hate you, Jon Acuff,” slow your roll. The One Ring of Grace isn’t about judging people; it’s about saving lives. Are you saying you want people to fall out of windows? Is that what you want?
So let’s keep at it. First phone goes off? That’s a freebie.
Second phone that rings? Probably going to have a worship eagle come confiscate that one with talons of justice. Seems about right.
Has your phone ever gone off during church?