A New Algorithm
Just a few minutes ago, as I scarfed down a turkey sandwich during my lunch break, something spooky happened. I was eating my lunch while enjoying one of my favorite duck hunting shows on the Outdoor Channel. A commercial flashed across the TV screen promoting Ole Smokes Coffee Company. It caught my attention because I have recently come to cherish (yes, that’s the right word), fire and wood roasted coffee. My daughter just bought me some from Summer Moon Coffee. So yummy, but I digress. This blog post is not an ad for coffee, I promise!
When I saw the commercial for Ole Smokes, I picked up my phone to do a quick search. I pulled up Google, and typed O-L-E and voila. Without typing anything else, the very first option Google showed me was Ole Smokes Coffee Company. Were I not so into wood-fired coffee, I would have been so creeped out that I would have buried my phone in the woods out back. But, fact is, this happens routinely now to us, doesn’t it? Our phones are listening. Watching TV beside us. Sometimes, seemingly, even reading our minds. And yet, we cannot manage to just leave our phones on the coffee table while we go for a leisurely stroll at the park. Can we?
In my previous post (https://www.corydonbaptist.org/blog/get-out-of-the-shallows), I mentioned the superb research crammed into Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows. Rather than rehash it here, suffice it to say this book convinced me that I do well to work much harder at minimizing my screen time, especially the i-phone or i-pad variety. And yes, I recognize the irony that I am now blogging about it. Nevertheless, this book hit me particularly hard as a Pastor. In my own personal life as well as for the sake of the people I spiritually shepherd.
My calling from God demands long hours of reading, meditating, memorizing, and writing. I cannot afford to diminish my capacity to think long and hard. To persevere in deep reflection and thorough research. To labor over words. Sentences. Paragraphs. Grammar. Syntax. Meaning. But I have noticed the detrimental impact of too much mindless screen time. For that matter, I have even noticed the marked difference in using a digital Bible commentary and an old-fashioned one (i.e., actual bound book).
And I have seen at least a few generations now who struggle mightily to read actual books, much less to listen intently to a 45-minute sermon. If you wonder why so many preachers today give 25-minute sermons (or even less), it’s often because: a) They themselves simply have not or cannot or will not log the long hours in the study required to preach more substantial sermons, or b) They do not wish to try to force their listeners to learn the discipline of intense focus and deep thinking, or c) Both.
This may well be a reason so many preachers also preach topical sermons. It caters to the flicker generation. Distracted. Unable to focus. Not willing to think long and hard. So, develop a catchy sermon series, give each sermon very “life-applicable” and/or “relevant” titles, do some quick Googling of your own, jot down some pithy thoughts from others on the topic, add a few Bible references from a Concordance, and then communicate the topical truth on Sunday from a stage without a pulpit and while holding a few notes folded in a Bible, or maybe just hold an i-pad. And call it a sermon. In truth, it’s more like an extemporaneous Ted Talk.
God help us! Dear Christians, we’ve got to do better. We’ve got to teach our children to do better. God’s Word is too rich for us to merely scratch at the surface. We need to minimize things that we know are enslaving us to a life of always moving quickly to the next best thing, hi-jacking our minds, and destroying our capacity to live a Christ-like Psalm 1 life. I mean, who among us, if we examine our daily schedules, could really say, “And on His Law he meditates day and night”?
Are our phones helping us here? Are we really growing more spiritual depth by hours and hours on YouTube, or Tumblr, or Instagram? Is our evangelistic prowess really helped by Facebook? Is our sense of genuine Christian fellowship that self-sacrificially walks with one another come hell or high water actually putting down deeper roots by several hours a day on social media? Sure, I know there are great blogs and sermons to be viewed out there. But again, what percentage of our screen time is genuinely helping us become, by God’s grace, more biblically obedient believers?
So, I am proposing a phone fast for the month of June. June seems like the perfect month to either just turn our phones off, or at least discipline ourselves to only use them for legit calls or texts, or to set a limit each day and stick to it. How you fast is up to you. But June is a good month to put our phones and screens away. After all, it is PRIDE month. So, imagine not having to see sinful filth and perverted celebrations paraded before your eyes non-stop for a month. Imagine not having to endure the ceaseless line of woke companies’ virtue-signaling advertisements. Imagine . . .
- More time playing in the yard with your children.
- Sitting with your spouse watching birds at the feeder.
- Long walks in your neighborhoods, or nearby parks; just walking and praying.
- Visiting a neighbor or meeting a new neighbor, sipping tea on their porches.
- More time reading an actual Bible (on printed page, which forces your brain to function differently, more intently, than screens, per Carr’s research). Read a few Bible books all the way through. In one sitting! If you read a Bible Book a day, that’s 30 books of the Bible in June! Or, if you take a few days, you could still read 10+ books of the Bible.
- More visits to the elderly saints in your churches. Sipping coffee with them and soaking up their wisdom.
- More time reading good books. Alone. With your children. Or, even a newspaper or good mag like World Magazine (yes, these dinosaurs still exist).
- More time to have that guest in the worship service over for dinner.
- More time to realize you actually do not have to respond to a text immediately! Nor must you be addicted to the dings and dongs of your phone notifications.
- Time to shop for a real alarm clock. Like an actual clock. Not a phone that lurks on your nightstand, always listening, watching, luring.
- Time for solitude. Consider watching the fireflies at night, uninterrupted.
- More time to fish. With a friend. Or with that fatherless child in your church or community.
- More time to landscape. Plant a garden. Water it. Include your family!
- More time to help clean your church building, and your home.
- More time talking to people. In the flesh. Face-to-face. To laugh with them. Cry with them. Pray with them. Breathe in deeply with them. Love them.
Dear friends, it is time for us to generate a new algorithm for our lives. Who’s with me? One month. Thirty days. A new algorithm. That just might become a new way of life.
“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8).
by Keith McWhorter