The Church’s Version of ADD

Grabbing a cup of coffee and waiting for Sunday School to start this morning, Joni and I noticed a “50% off” shelf of books outside the bookstore/coffee bar.  I love snooping around in bookstores.  Today’s excursion produced this moment of reverie:

It’s a little bit like the church (not just our church) has a collective case of ADD.  Yes, Attention Deficit Disorder.  We seem attracted to (or distracted by) whatever shiny product or hot author or cool new thing comes along next .  That’s what gets our attention…for the moment.  As soon as the shine fades, we move on.

I filed this thought, promising myself I’d come back to it later.  As I think about it now, I was right and wrong at the same time.

I’ll start with the wrong first.  The wide variety of topics suggests the range of heart hungers that Christians feel.  I rejoice any time any Christian makes an effort to grow in respect to some part of her life.  That motive motivates people to write that wide variety of books.  People trying to help other people grow; not just grabbing at the next shiny thing, but a real desire to grow…

But it’s also true that shiny things catch our eye and American Christianity has its share of shiny things: bestselling authors and conferences and big events with celebrity Christian speakers and all manner of workshops and weekend experiences.  I still can’t get over the first time I saw one of those “5 minute devotional” books in a Christian bookstore.  Now I notice that sort of silly thing all the time being sold in Christian bookstores.  I guess a five minute devotional is better than nothing, but five minutes with the Lord is like taking one bite at a banquet.  It may have its momentary effect, but it does not accomplish its intended purpose.

Honestly, when you stop and think, with the flood of books on all manner of spiritual life and discipleship topics, we Christians ought to be among the most mature, wise, put-together people on the planet.  Yet, we are not.  Why?  Is it because we are so easily distracted by the latest, greatest Christian whatever?  Maybe.

What if we are chasing a certain type of experience rather than Christian character?  We spend much effort (and money?) seeking momentary exaltations and mistake them for actual encounters with the living God.  This is not a killjoy comment, nor dour rationalism.  Thank God for emotionally intense moments, but they are just that: moments.

Every one of us can name glorious moments.  I’m old enough to remember well Lay Witness Missions.  (Google it.)  For a while for men, it was Promise Keepers.  For young folks, it’s a Passion Conference.  I’m not gainsaying these ministries or the great experiences we have participating in one of their events.  I believe God is present at them and works his purposes.

But they are still just moments.  And God is interested in making a lifetime of godliness.  The goal of the Christian life is mature Christian character.  Most of discipleship is taken up with practicing, learning how to die daily.  It’s about daily prayer, corporate worship, searching the scriptures themselves,  not reading some “Bible study” about the Bible.  It’s about loving one another, our neighbors and our enemies.

What are you reading right now?  What books are on your bed stand?   I’d guess they express your characteristic interests and our interests vary.  But it’s not just about what interests us.  It’s about what God intends to do in the life of his people.  And that means stretching beyond our narrow interests or our own sense of need, important as they are.

Here’s the deal, friends.  God will judge the quality and fruitfulness of our lives.  Whatever you think about heaven and hell or eternal destiny, that’s not my point here.  My point is simply that we are accountable to the One who created and redeemed us and is now in the process of sanctifying us, to serve his purposes.

Hopping around from one topic to another; dabbling in various parts of the Christian life won’t get it done.  Your life matters and it matters that you grow into the disciple our Lord envisions you to be.  Commit.  Persevere.  Daily.  When you get distracted by shiny things, by God’s grace turn your attention back to God’s purposes.  Stay with it.  Don’t quit.  Don’t give up.  There is truly no other way.

 

 

 

About Stephen Rankin

Professionally I am an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I currently serve as University Chaplain at Southern Methodist University. Personally I am married to Joni and we have four grown children and four grandchildren. You can find my personal thoughts on this site, as well as on twitter at @stephenwrankin.

Comments

  1. Amen. It’s easy to get distracted with the many offerings. As you point out, moments, etc have their merit but should not be confused with the real thing. Too often we forget that it is only with a strong root we can have good fruit. We need to be rooted in God and God’s purposed.

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