Over the past weeks, we’ve traveled and talked about MMM a good bit. Some of the more interesting conversations have come when we’ve talked about accountability as being an aspect of mobile ministry that has to be better understood, and then lived out. What follows is some discussion on the topic.
What is Accountability?
Depending on your experiences, the term accountability might conjure up several types of images. Some might see an overbearing parent, or others might see their vices skillfully hidden. Some might hear accountability and only think in terms of opening up about sexual sins, or maybe the term points to finances – the term checks and balances rings in one’s mind there.
In many respects, you can say that thinking about accountability with mobile includes these and other areas. But, let’s start with a definition of accountability, and then move towards mobile from there.
According to Merriam-Webster, accountability can be defined as:
an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions
This seems very terse and simple. An obligation – meaning that it is not voluntary, requires obedience, and may contain consequences. A willingness – meaning that you have some positive yielding of your expectations and desires towards this – if you will, your behavior bends to this direction versus away from it. Responsibly – points to a boundary, a metric of judgement, and ownership. And the word account – which speaks to there being some kind of recording, which may or may not be written, but is noted somewhere.
What do we mean by mobile accountability?
So then there’s mobile. When we opened the discussion last fall about the definition of mobile ministry, we also defined mobile. Here’s what we gave then as a definition:
personal computing use that is defined by time, task, and spatial relationships, and is not limited to a device which maintains a wired connection; behavior of use is not limited to non-moving contexts; viewport of use is established by a 1:1 ratio of device/service and user.
Notice some of the similarities here with the definitions of mobile and accountability:
- Both are bound to an owner
- Both have an indicated user, tool, and behavior
- Mobile means that you are connected to a person and/or service – which is monitored for billing, analytics, and advertising
In effect, mobile then has this context of use where by its very nature, its personal and recorded. What happens though is that we can sometimes get so lost in the personal nature of mobile that we don’t realize that there’s an accounting of our use that is being logged. We know that these things happen because they are properties of using mobile. And (hopefully), we are using mobile within the constraints of what is good, holy, and acceptable.
Mobile accountability therefore means that we understand that there are technical, personal, and community layers that may call us into account of our use of mobile devices and services.
Acts 5 Demonstrating Accountability
Recall the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. At this point in the early church, the practice (behavior) of sharing possessions. This was an action taken on by new believers of their own volition, and most willingly gave – not just an account of what they had, but relinquished the ownership of these possessions to the management of the Apostles for distributing to all.
Ananias and Sapphira gave, but held back. They weren’t transparent with their dealings with the Apostles, and when called into account for this, they did not own up to their responsibility, and therefore the obligation they placed themselves under was done under false pretenses. In their case, they lost their lives. Not because they weren’t being accountable, but the report that spoke of their actions didn’t match with what they were providing.
Why then is Accountability an Important Topic in Mobile?
So back to this term accountability and what it means in the context of mobile. First off, understand that you are under no obligation to share with anyone what you do on your mobile devices. It truly is a personal window and communications portal.
You do have a responsibility to understand also that all that you do on your mobile device is recorded. Your carriers keep a record of all of the voice, SMS, and data passed through your web browser and other applications which connect to the Internet. You might also have a record of your dealings kept by various service providers. For example, Google will show you on your account page the various IP addresses that have accessed your account.
You also have a responsibility (some would even argue that its an obligation due to the life that is redeemed that is no longer your own) to use mobile devices and services in such a way that your community (family, friends, employers, etc.) can call into account your use of mobile – and you can answer truthfully of the successes and/or struggles that you might be having. Whether you observe or not observe that responsibility will open you to consequences that you might not be ready for.
In Romans, Paul exhorts the believers listening to the reading of that letter to present their bodies as holy and acceptable to God (12:1). He regards it as a reasonable service – an obligation that we willingly take part in as part of our responsibilities gained as part of this new life in Christ Jesus (8:1).
If this is the case, then to be accountable – even on mobile – is an act of sanctification and worship.
What Next, or How Do I Be Accountable?
As we said at the outset, the term accountable may have several connotations. All of these can be addressed, and here are some examples to follow through:
- There are mobile applications which can filter content and send a report to a trusted friend. We’ve listed two on our Bible Apps page: Covenant Eyes for iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad and X3 Watch for Android and iPhone/iPod Touch devices*.
- Consider starting a prayer chain in your churches or small groups by using SMS (text messaging). Have one person in the group send a prayer request to 3-6 people, and those people commit to praying for, and then responding by text, call, or face-to-face visit to follow-up on the matter.
- Reduce or remove those features on your mobile device which might be straining your wallet or mental state. Most carriers allow for you to remove services such as Internet from your account after a certain amount of time within your contract.
- Consider getting rid of your smartphone and picking up a simpler feature phone that has fewer features and therefore increase the ability for you to use your mobile device for destructive behaviors. In this case, make this decision after speaking with a pastor or counselor, then be sure to follow-up with regular progress reports.
At the end of days, when we stand before the throne of God and Jesus sits with the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12), our life will read like a mobile phone bill, but with greater detail of the charges and a much higher final cost. Just because mobile makes you accessible, and your actions might be personally viewable, doesn’t mean that even there, its not being accounted to you.
*If you are a company that deals with accountability software for mobile devices, please get in contact with us so that we can add you to our listing.