I recently picked up Lee Beach’s book, The Church in Exile: Loving in Hope After Christendom, and found my imagination grabbed by an observation he made regarding the call to holiness for God’s people. He said this:
Within the textual response to exile there is a call for the community to distinguish itself as a set-apart people through practices of holiness designed to bring a renewed sense of communal identity, specifically as a people separate from the practices of the larger culture.
I began to wonder, what are the practices of the larger culture that has shaped it into its present consumeristic, individualistic, secular-leaning orientation? And what, therefore, should be the practices of the church which will help to guard our hearts from the prevalent cultural currents?
It was while I was thinking about this that I happened to come across a statistic: according to the research of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8.25 in 2015. Just to put that into perspective, scientists believe that the average goldfish has a 9-second attention span.
Consider the restlessness and activity addictions of the average Canadian. Watch how often teenagers reach for their cell phones whenever there is a spare second or pause in a conversation. People are training themselves to be distracted. The practice of being still, the discipline of mindful meditation, and the habits of pausing, thinking and reflecting are becoming increasingly rare.
I believe this agitation-driven need to do something, rather than simply be present, is one of the practices of the larger community that drives the consumer spirit of our age. It is destructive to the soul. For a people who reflect the nature of the God they serve, spending time (or is it investing time) in quiet and stillness is an essential practice in our quest to be a content, missional people.
Psalm 131:2 says it best:
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
What other “practices of the larger culture” do you think are contributing to the way things are? And what practices do you think are essential to helping form the church’s missional identity?