We Have More Time Than We Think…It is Time to Be Brutally Honest About This One

Add up the amount of time you watch TV, tweet, blog, facebook, use your cell phone, ipad/e-reader, etc each day. Take that number and compare it to the time Jesus and his 11, his 72 and the early church used those devices (Zero hours/day) and realize that we have more time than we think we have. People say they are so busy that they don’t have time for kingdom work. But we make time for the things that are important to us. If we are brutally honest there are some of us who find electronics more interesting and of more value that real people. If we realize our lives are out of balance on this one then we need to make some changes. I am thinking more and more about simplifying things and trying to spend more time around what is really most important. Now, to be fair some of the reasons we use things like facebook are because of other people and we can make an impact through that. But nothing substitutes real time with real people.

I am afraid the North American Church is weak and dying because we have substitute substance with shallowness. I am also convinced that our path toward growth and discipleship is not about new things but about old things and old ways. The church grew at a time when people spent time with people and started dying when air conditioning and garage doors got popular. We isolate and insulate all at the expense of kingdom work. What have we really gained from this approach?

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

21 Responses to We Have More Time Than We Think…It is Time to Be Brutally Honest About This One

  1. Next time you talk to Daniel, ask him about “the pejorative we.”🙂 It’s probably his biggest pet peeve these days.

    As for the message…

    I’m no Luddite, but sometimes I wonder if there would be more appeal to Church if we marketed it more as a place to disconnect from our devices & reconnect with people and a God who love us. And I know lots of folks have Bible apps that they like to use on their iPads/iPhones. But I know that I like the appeal of that idea.

  2. mattdabbs says:

    Ask someone how they became a Christian and they will give you the names of people. I have yet to hear someone talk about phones, laptops and ipads as being their primary influence or really any influence.

    • Don’t forget that there is a person at the other end of the phone, laptop, and i-pad who is either blogging or speaking in some other way to the person who may become a Christian because of what is being said electronically.

      Nevertheless, your larger point is right! It is easy to allow these electronic devices to isolate us from the people who are nearest to us.

      • mattdabbs says:

        “Now, to be fair some of the reasons we use things like facebook are because of other people and we can make an impact through that. But nothing substitutes real time with real people.”🙂

  3. mattdabbs says:

    I hope you all know…the first person who needs to hear this is the guy who wrote this post. I am working on it!

  4. Paul Smith says:

    We may be the first generation in history that is connected to everyone and can relate to no one.

  5. JamesBrett says:

    i feel incredibly blessed to live and minister in rural africa, where face to face relationships are key. though, even here, people are starting to answer phone calls in the middle of conversations — which is very counter the culture.

    i was gone from the states for 2 1/2 years before our first furlough last august, and i’ll never forget one of my first sunday school experiences back. the teacher all told us a verse to turn to, and only two of 20-something people had an actual bible. the rest were using their phones. i felt like i was in some futuristic movie.

    somehow, though, i suspect having access to bibles 24 hours a day on cell phones does not mean we’re reading them any more often…

  6. James Wood says:

    Wow, Matt. I think you’re oversimplifying things a bit when you say, “The church grew at a time when people spent time with people and started dying when air conditioning and garage doors got popular.”

    Sure, the impetus to hide out in an air conditioned house takes us away from people (I’m not for that and I think it is harming the church), but the church has been in numerous cycles of decline and regeneration throughout history. Only one of which can be attributed to AC. Look at the Reformation, the Restoration Movement, the Anabaptists, the Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakening for just a few examples of this cycle in the church.

    It is all about connecting with people, and using the best means of doing that. But I don’t think Paul would throw out his letters just because he was using technology to communicate with people who weren’t there. Neither should we eschew books, TV, radio, movies, the internet or mobile devices simply because they are a technological impedance between us and people.

    Rather, like Paul, we should use the tools we have to connect and re-connect with people. Face-to-face is best. Absolutely, no question about that. But without that possibility, I’d rather be Facebook friends with someone until I can connect when them in person.

    • mattdabbs says:

      But James…this is the one we are in right now. So I think it is important to look for commonality between the cycles of growth and decline but we also have to recognize that our society has changed at an exponential rate in the last 40 years and much of that has to do with technology and it has had a tremendously good and profoundly bad effect on the church. Having said that I don’t think technology is to blame for our problems…as you stated and as I stated in the post that all has its place. It is all about the decisions we make with how we are going to use our time. People have had to make those decisions for the history of humanity…we are now faced with more options that put us away from face-to-face interaction than in the history of mankind. That is my opinion, for what it is worth.

  7. mattdabbs says:

    Also, let me point out…we have more biblical, technological and financial resources available to us than has ever been available in history and yet we are in decline. The answer is not more commentaries. The answer is (as James, myself and others have said) connecting with others. There is no substitute. So sure, use facebook to do that. Use a blog to do that. I am not saying those are bad things in and of themselves. I am afraid that too often (can only speak for myself) we do all of this thinking technology will do the work for us or that we don’t feel as much need for face-to-face time because of all the “social media” that we neglect real relationships.

    • James Wood says:

      I’m right there with you, Matt. You’re saying good things and bringing up ideas that we must consider if we’re to move forward in ministry.

      I’m trying to no pick nits or split hairs here, but I have a problem with classifying what happens through technology as not-real while what happens face-to-face as real. It’s the logical equivalent of labeling books as not-real thoughts because they weren’t presented in person.

      We have real relationships with real people online, offline, through text messages and in person. I don’t consider this interaction with you to be any less real than the time we spent sitting in class, church or small group together. It’s all real.

      It might be better to talk about engagement levels or levels of connection rather than reality. I am far more engaged and connected with a person when I’m face-to-face versus online. And it’s that high level of engagement and connection that builds friendships and gives us the chance to speak good news into the lives of people.

      Essentially I see it as a signal-to-noise ratio. Online there’s a lot of noise, so the signal of relationship is very low by comparison. I can connect with people, speak good news to people and develop friendships through technology. But it will take much much longer due to all the noise that’s competing with my signal.

      Offline we have a much better signal-to-noise ratio and that’s preferable. But if I only have one option, I’m going to choose some signal versus no signal.

      Instead of us asking how we can use technology less as we share good news, I think we need to ask how we can use it more faithfully. Sometimes that’ll mean turning off my phone so I can focus on the person I’m with, or using Facebook to set up a coffee appointment with someone, or creating space online where people feel comfortable exploring faith issues that they wouldn’t talk about in person.

      I think, ultimately, we agree. We’re just emphasizing different sides of the same point.

      • mattdabbs says:

        “I think, ultimately, we agree. We’re just emphasizing different sides of the same point.” – This

        One illustration of what you are talking about is hearing about the birth of a friend’s baby. When you have 1000+ friends on facebook and you respond with a simple “congrats” that is better than nothing. But what tends to develop over time is that things we would have used to celebrate in more significant ways gets relegated to the mundane and ordinary because we see it so many times.

        You know I am not arguing against the use of these things. This post is in a response to the dozens of people that I have known who say they are too busy to do significant kingdom work, all the while they use things like facebook for hours and menial purposes. I don’t want to sound like I am saying there is no room in life for “menial” things. You can go overboard there as well. Some things that seem non-kingdom are very much kingdom work. I recognize that. I just think people make up excuses…that is why I wrote the initial post.

      • James Wood says:

        It’s for that very reason that I’ve hidden my birthday on Facebook. I don’t want to be “remembered” by all the people who see it come up in their feed and then copy and paste a sentiment. Nor do I want others to feel that I just copied and pasted my feelings to them.

      • mattdabbs says:

        James…you should write up a guest post for this blog based on that comment. It is really good stuff🙂

      • James Wood says:

        Sounds like a plan – which comment do you mean though? The birthday comment or the longer one before that?

      • mattdabbs says:

        the longer one

      • James Wood says:

        Cool, I’ll get to work on it. Do you have a date when you’d like it?

      • mattdabbs says:

        In the next week would be great if you are able.

  8. coryb says:

    “Impact – the striking of one thing against another; forceful contact; collision”

    “Influence – an effect”

    We may influence others by using modern devices to “talk” about Christ, but until we live our lives out infront of them on a daily basis we will never have an impact and parts of the church will suffer. We can use the internet and text messaging to influence people, creating an effect to produce the impression that “Jesus loves them” in their lives, however Christ impacted those around him everywhere he went by coming in contact with them, living life with them, then sending others to follow up, just like Paul and Timmothy, not texting to check up on them.

    I struggle with the same atmosphere in my small group. One is going through a hard time and all they get are text messages offering advice or support. Another needs salvation and they are bombarded with “I’m praying for you” or How’s it going” on FB. Very few take the time out of their day to live life with the people in need. We are being quietly put to sleep.

    “For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the LORD Almighty is his name. I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand – I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’ Awake, awake! Rise up Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have deained to its dregs the goblet that makes people stagger.” Isaiah 51:16-17

    We belong to a mighty God. Why don’t we go with love and act like it? Or… we culd jst txt em’.

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