The culture can be a real drag on spiritual growth. I’m not naïve enough to believe that the earliest Christians didn’t have their struggles drawing close to God; otherwise, Paul would not have advised, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it even without thinking” (Rom. 12:2, MSG). But modern-day Christians must constantly recalibrate relative to technology and invention, things without conscience but powerful enough to dictate it, which raises serious concerns.
We live in a culture immune to stillness and reflection. Without thinking we walk through our doors turning TVs and computers on; we are uncomfortable with silent drives. Five year-olds are near-wizards on computers and smartphones, tutoring adults when necessary. Then I wonder what could possibly be the next ‘big thing’.
Look, I’m no Luddite. I believe technology is necessary; in fact, I have an intriguing theory for its cause. But attending it all is a world of disquiet. Statistics prove that today’s technology has a strong propensity for inducing privatized lives that accounts for an increase in people, including youth, who lack in proper social skills, exhibit mindless behavior, and isolate themselves, sometimes secretly incubating gross dysfunction.
Christians are not exempt. Many of us cannot pray “in a straight line” for our minds racing—thinking about our lists, replaying app games in our heads, and wondering about the latest news and text message. If your church features age-level youth church, you are fortunate. But in assemblies that don’t offer it, we find even larger children being allowed to play on devices during church services. I sought God in my childhood because I was made to sit in church and pay attention. I understand that kids get restless or may not grasp all they see and hear in adult services; yet we let them come home and freely watch sitcoms and movies and play video games that would embarrass us if others knew. An hour or more is not too much time out of the week to sit still and show reverence without being pacified by digital devices. Yet they learn it from us.
Culture and everything in it is hurried and frantic, distracted and fragmented; and God doesn’t abide in such places.
You want a move of God? I suppose the Lord himself desires the same. But we cannot overlook that he might first need to come destroy our idolatry and indulgence just to ready us for the inpouring. I believe this testifies to the ease of slipping into culture’s form-fitting wear, the encumbrance and sin spoken of in Hebrews 1:1.
What Are The Options?
Revival starts with me. I must believe that. And I must also believe that any breakthrough I need could be ordained in the single act of me turning the TV off for a month or getting rid of some social media. I’ve encountered too many people who wonder where God went, but they miss that they are not passionate for him. God dwells in the fervent heart. The one in pursuit of God is filled with the Spirit and his ministry, but the culture will rob us of passion-forming habits.
Do you watch SpongeBob SquarePants? (I know, right?) Are you familiar with Sandy Cheeks, the Texas-loving, Southern-drawled, research scientist squirrel? She, a land animal, lives at the bottom of the sea in Bikini Bottom and wears a deep sea dive suit and glass helmet. Statement of the obvious alert: she’s way out of her natural element.
And so are we. Citizens of the kingdom, we don’t belong to this culture. So what are some ways to shut it out and draw close to God, igniting our passion for him?
- End media for a season. This is major and a tough one for most people. But like an acquired taste, you’ll soon begin to like it. I went for a year without any media while overseas. It cleansed my mind, but the readjustment was tough when I returned. I’ve also reduced social media time by at least 80 percent. No media means more time to dwell on what is spiritually wholesome and edifying. Remember, we have time for what we give time.
Engage the spiritual disciplines. Three that will help: slowing, silence, and solitude. Slowing is the habit of slowing down and forcing oneself to wait. Silence is the abstaining from talk and noise. Solitude is the withdrawal from others for the sake of inner reflection. The results of these are many: they bring focus, consideration for others, freedom from self-defense and negativity, confidence in God, contentment, and companionship with God.
- Guard your portals. John Bunyan, describing the city of Mansoul in The Holy War, explains, “Ear-gate, Eye-gate, Mouth-gate, Nose-gate, and Feel-gate. The five senses are very properly described as so many gates of the city, for these are the doors by which good or evil must enter.” Don’t allow culture to put you at odds with your faith and so captain your soul by what you’ve let in through ideas, persuasions, media, or music.
- Prepare for encountering God. We should prep our hearts for worship services by calming ourselves and our homes and with prayer and meditation. I like to start on Saturdays. In the same way, we should be careful how we depart church: our manner should focus on what we’ve experienced. I don’t turn anything on in the car. I wish to prayerfully meditate on what I’ve heard. How often the seed has been picked by the enemy because our first impulse was to go back to our usual way when God desired to fellowship with us. If going out with a group, let the conversation be edifying and focused on God’s given word.
We must slam the door on the culture in order to let God fill all the spaces of our hearts. I believe this is a cardinal way to help develop fervent disciples for Jesus.