I’m currently reading a book entitled, “The Senior Pastor and the Reformation of Youth Ministry” by Richard Ross. It’s really challenging my perspective on the “why” and “how” behind student ministry and what a healthy student ministry should look like–but that’s a topic for another day.
Eighteen pages into the book, Ross references some comments made by a well-known worship leader. Here are the two paragraphs that have wrecked me for the last couple of weeks:
Often it feels to me as if, for many of our people, singing praise songs and hymns on a Sunday morning has turned into an affair with Christ. . . . Too many of us are far more passionate about less, temporal concerns such as getting ahead at the office, finding personal happiness in a hobby, driving a new car, or rearing well-balanced children. But we rarely ever get that excited about Christ Himself, at least on any consistent basis.
Except when we enter a sanctuary on a Sunday. Then for awhile we end up sort of “swooning” over Christ with feel-good music and heart-stirring prayers–only to return to the daily grind of secular seductions to which, for all practical purposes, we’re thoroughly “married.” . . . Christ is more like a “mistress” to us. He’s someone with whom we have these periodic affairs to to reinvigorate our spirits so that we can return, refreshed, to engage all the other agendas that dominate us most of the time.
I wonder how many of us are merely having “an affair with Christ”? I’m not casting stones here. I’ll be the first to acknowledge my guilt of singing and raising my hands from the stage on a Sunday only to turn back to the “secular seductions” (work, schedules, finances, and yes, sometimes ministry) when the alarm clock goes off on Monday morning.
I don’t have this figured out yet. In Paul’s all-too-familiar words, “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18) But “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25) who calls us his Bride, even when we treat him like a mistress.
In an effort to try something different and new this year, Kelli and I decided we were going to partake in Lent. Before the 40 days of Lent kicked off on February 18 (turns out it’s actually more than 40 days) we each decided on a “lesser thing” we were going to give up in an effort to better focus on the “greatest thing”—the gospel. Kelli abstained from caffeine and sugar for the entirety of the 40 days while I took an extended vacation from social media. In addition to giving up our “lesser things” I also found a great Lent guide from The Village Church for us to walk through together as a family. The guide led us through a series of passages from the gospels as well as through a series of weekly fasts (food, TV and movies, social media, caffeine and sweets, radio and music, purchasing non-essentials, sleep—in that order) with the goal of “preparing [us] for the joy of Resurrection Sunday as we enter the sorrow and pain which preceded it.”
I wish I could tell you it was a time of incredible spiritual awakening. It wasn’t. I wish I could tell you that each and every week I led my family through powerful devotions full of deep and life-changing spiritual insights. That didn’t happen either. However, Lent did reveal something in my own life that I’m certain many can relate to.
Having decided to give up social media for 40 days, I deleted the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram apps from my phone. What’s funny (or mildly disturbing) is that over the first few days of the fast I would mindlessly pick up my phone as if to jump onto Twitter or to scan through Instagram, only to realize that the apps were no longer available. So did I just put my phone down? No. I checked my email instead—you know, just in case I started getting emails from people who haven’t messaged me one time in the last three years. It didn’t take me long to realize that I’m overconnected.
We live in a world that makes it incredibly hard to power down and disconnect. The devices we carry in our pockets make it nearly impossible. We’re always connected. Yet in the gospels we have record of Jesus slipping away from time to time to pray in a quiet place. Jesus exemplified what it means to disconnect—and if Jesus exemplified it, I think we would do well to imitate. If you’re like me and find yourself on social media quite often, let me encourage you to shut your phone (or tablet, or computer, or whatever you use) off every once in a while (maybe even for a whole week or weekend—gasp!). Unplug. Disconnect. Your husband/wife/children/family/friends will appreciate it—and you’ll benefit from it as well.