By Russell Board
According to data published by Apple, there are now over 1.2 million iPhone apps available in the App Store, with an estimated 300 new apps released every day.
Apple claims that 75 billion of their apps have been downloaded on various devices. That comes to about 11 apps downloaded for every man, woman and child alive today! And that doesn’t even count the apps for Android.
Clearly, apps are incredibly popular. And why wouldn’t they be? There are apps that address virtually every area of life: home and family, business and finance, health and fitness, travel and hobbies, news and education, music and art, romance and entertainment.
And there are plenty of apps for those who are religiously inclined: Bibles in various languages and translations, commentaries, concordances, sermons, maps, church listings, Bible reading plans, and on and on.
I even have an app on my iPad called iDisciple. Which makes me uneasy. Nothing against the app itself, which offers plenty of helpful resources. What concerns me is the temptation we face to exchange the Biblical idea of discipleship for a more streamlined and convenient version, which we could call “iDiscipleship.” This version is promoted by many preachers and adopted by many Christians who seem to have a diluted notion of what true discipleship entails.
Let me explain. “iDisciples” tends to view their relationship with Jesus much like one of the apps on their smart phone. In fact, for the “iDisciple,” becoming a Christian is simply a matter of downloading the “Jesus App.”
Thanks to the grace of God, the “Jesus App” is free, and can be downloaded on request at no cost.
The “Jesus App” is always there ready and waiting among the other apps, to be accessed whenever desired. It can be activated easily and effortlessly at appropriate times, such as during worship services, Bible study or prayer. Then it fades unobtrusively into the background when one is engaged in other activities, without disturbing whatever commercial, leisure or personal matters one is dealing with.
The “Jesus App” is extremely useful, providing access to divine resources no other app can match. When circumstances are difficult, it offers a “very present help in times of trouble.” When insight is needed, it offers secrets of success in every life endeavor: finances, romance, sports, you name it. The “Jesus App” will help you achieve all your goals, and lead you to “your best life now.”
Best of all, with the “Jesus App” you remain in control. The “Jesus App” is there at your fingertips when needed, but it doesn’t make any troublesome demands, or interfere with your other plans and activities.
This is the essence of “iDiscipleship.” The “i” remains in first place. Discipleship is secondary, and is subordinate to my needs, my plans, my goals, my desires. In the end, it’s still all about me.
Of course, true discipleship doesn’t come in app form. True discipleship entails offering one’s life to Jesus, and ceding control to him. He then sets up a whole new operating system, run by the Holy Spirit. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17.)
This new operating system will not be compatible with all the apps and programs that were previously running. These must be deleted. (See Colossians 3:8-10.)
Of course, our daily activities in the world expose us to infection by destructive viruses developed by the enemy. But the Holy Spirit is a superb malware detector, and His cleanup program is extremely thorough. (For best results, run daily to detect and eliminate all threats. See Psalm 51:10.)
Beware the “Jesus App.” It purports to offer a shortcut to discipleship, but turns out to be counterfeit. Those who use it experience frequent crashes.