Screen Addiction, Discipleship & the new AA

Screen Addiction, Discipleship & the new AA

Well I just finished leading a session at the “Future of the Church Summit” with Exponential and I wanted to share one idea I shared there. In fact, it’s one that I’ve been thinking about for the last 18 months.

…but before I get there, let me set the stage about where our ever-increasing-digital-world is.

This is the current digital terrain we live in:

  • People spend an average of 37.8 hours a week on a smartphone
  • The average person consumes roughly 100,000 words a week from reading social media feeds (that’s the equivalent of like a 500 page book!)
  • 1/3rd of Millennials have a medically diagnosed anxiety disorder linked to social media activity (PS: The oldest Millennial turned 40 last year!)
  • 79% of North American self-diagnose as “addicted to their screen”

It takes roughly 10 years to get research back on the long-term affects of a new technology, so we’re just seeing the first wave of results about how we relate to smartphones and what they do to us over time. And folks…it’s catastrophic.

Here’s the point: Christian or not, it’s not whether or not people are being discipled. They are! And their most active discipler is the little device they hold in their hands.


What we are talking about is full-blown addiction.

Now in the 1930’s, there was another kind of addiction that finally got some breakthrough: Alcoholism.And through the inspiring work of Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, Alcoholics Anonymous was born. Today, more than 130 million people found freedom from an addiction they just couldn’t break. But even better? Scores of people encountered God and came to faith in Jesus Christ.

So what’s the big idea I’ve been thinking about for the last 18 months? There will be leaders who press into this opportunity to get people freedom from screen addiction. It’s hard to explain the ways in which there is a looming catastrophe on the horizon (if you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, it’s worth the watch). But as with all things, this presents a gospel opportunity for the people of God. Not only do we get to demonstrate what freedom from addiction looks like, we get to share stories of hope and a process for that breakthrough.

I believe getting people this level of freedom presents a generational opportunity for evangelism and discipleship. The question is this: Who will start working on it now?

I think Andy and Amy Crouch have done some great preliminary thinking on this with My Tech-Wise Life and The Tech-Wise Family. I know both of those books have been helpful in how my wife and I are discipling our kids (and ourselves!).

My crazy prayer I’ve been praying all week? Maybe the Lord is spurring one of the readers of this article, or one of the listeners at Exponential, to start the next AA.

The Fatal Flaw of Discipleship Strategies

The Fatal Flaw of Discipleship Strategies

I’ve probably spent the last 15 years of my life trying things in the local churches I’ve led or with leaders I’m coaching or walking alongside to help them innovate discipleship strategies. And more recently at Catapult, we’ve been piloting some new strategies to help churches create a discipleship process that really gets the fruit they are going after. As you can imagine, the learning has been in overdrive.
The more I’ve done this work, the more I see that there are probably 6 different kinds of Discipleship churches.


Each has a different strategy, different outcomes, pros, cons and almost all of them have a fatal flaw. But as you’ll discover at the end, there is one fatal flaw they all have in common.

Church #1: Discipleship as Preaching

Headline: Churches with this discipleship strategy love (mostly) expositional preaching and rightly dividing the Word of God. And that’s a good thing!

Greatest Strength: This creates a culture of people who love the Word of God in both their Sunday morning experience and in daily times with the Lord, nourishing them as they go.

Fatal Flaw: These churches overestimate what preaching can do in and of itself. Did Jesus preach? Absolutely. But the Bible shows that’s not what the majority of his discipleship process looked like. Jesus was the best disciple-maker who ever lived. And while preaching was part of his strategy, it was a small piece of it.

Church #2: It’s all organic, baby.

Headline: Disciples are made in the everyday comings and goings of life; after all, the Great Commission says, “and as you go, make disciples.”

Greatest Strength: Some things are simply better caught than taught. The organic process allows people to learn from the places of real life where the Gospel is being lived out, in real time. After all, how much of the twelve disciples formation happened just by being with Jesus and processing in real time?

Fatal Flaw: There is often a lack of intentionality, focus and overall direction for where the person being discipled is being taken. Sometimes it feels like it’s just two people in a coffee shop or bar hanging out and it’s not really going anywhere. Jesus knew exactly where he wanted to take twelve and was exceptionally intentional about getting them there.

Church #3: Just join a small group!

Headline: The seeker sensitive movement and simple church emphasis created a place for everyone in the church to go. Most churches are using some version of a small group strategy. But does it lead to spiritual transformation?

Greatest Strength: People can form deep relationships with a consistent group of people over a long period of time who can love them, grow with them, walk with them and speak into their life.

Fatal Flaw: Ultimately the small group strategy started as a kind of relational flypaper. Churches were trying to close the “back door” of the church. Small groups are great at cultivating relationships because that’s what they were designed for. But they weren’t necessarily designed to help people grow spiritually or propel them into mission. The real fatal flaw? A fair number of small groups are led by spiritually immature people leading other spiritually immature people.

Church #4: We’ve got a program for that.

Headline: This strategy focuses on creating a large choice of classes and programs that pinpoint people’s felt needs and then seek to deliver the goods.

Greatest Strength: People are able to locate a place of weakness, pain point or something they simply want to learn and then applies the Gospel to that specific area.

Fatal Flaw: There are a couple. First, it creates a caste system of the elite vs. consumers of religious goods and services. Second, very rarely does this discipleship strategy create a culture where people are engaging in everyday mission or discipling people of their own. Third, it means the church is always looking for “the next program” to scratch the itch of those consumers.

Church #5: Discipleship as a spark.

Headline: Churches deploy and execute a system for discipleship that leads to reproduction, train people in it and release them as yeast into the dough of the church and wider community.

Greatest Strength: Reproduction gets into the water and as you get into generational disciple-making where disciples are making disciples, it leads to people outside the church who don’t know Jesus yet. Discipleship is now leading to evangelism.

Fatal Flaw: This model is built on low control. That can sometimes be positive, but there’s often a drawback with unintended consequences. The spark that you light might look different than you think it should. Or maybe it burns something down.

Church #6: Discipleship as optional.

Headline: Churches with this strategy see the almost exclusive mission of the church to get people to heaven when they die and very little time or energy is spent on this present life.

Greatest Strength: There tends to be a heavy evangelistic fervor in this culture, albeit for a very small version of the Gospel.

Fatal Flaw: When discipleship is seen as separate from the Gospel, as an optional add-on, it means people are missing the essential ingredients for transformation. They might go to heaven when they die, but they often cause a lot of misery and brokenness while on earth. Very few people who aren’t Christians look at their lives and think, “I want that kind of life.”

But what’s the fatal flaw they all have in common?

One of the things we’ve found at Catapult is virtually all of these plans are IMPORTED or CUT-AND-PASTED from other places. And what might have worked in one place rarely works in a different place…or it works quite differently. For instance, the small group strategy that might be producing a lot of specific outcomes for Andy Stanley at North Point might be imported somewhere else and rarely gets the same results. (Which, by the way, is an incredibly frustrating experience for pastors!)


So what’s the fatal flaw? It’s not having a contextualized discipleship process built on your church’s DNA.


It’s for this very reason that we created the Disciple Making Innovation Lab. We wanted to help churches create something unique to their DNA, theology, vision and context that leads to deep spiritual transformation and reproduction of disciples who make disciples. (And actually works!)


Are you wanting to move discipleship forward in your ministry?

Check out our Disciple-Making Innovation Lab.

Or You can Schedule a Call Directly.