Deep Growth in a Shallow World

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How long has it been since you checked your phone? If you are an average user, it’s now been less than 4.3 minutes and chances are, you’ll pause reading this article for a quick glance. Whether you come back to finish or not is up for grabs. Like it or not, we live in a digital age and the devices are shaping us.

Media ecologist, T. Gordan David makes the point that a tool isn’t neutral. When you use a shovel, you have made an impact with the tool, but likewise, the tool may have made your back and shoulders sore or given you calluses. You use the tool but the tool shapes you also. Tools also shape cultures. If you give a hunter/gatherer people a plow, you will likely change their nomadic ways and even reorder who is important to society. Strong guys are better for plowing, fast guys are better for catching game. (See Why Johnny Can’t Preach)

We need to recognize that we live in a world of what JI Packer called, “butterfly minds.” We flit from one thing to the next, rarely pausing to think through anything systematically and at length. This isn’t an appeal to go off the grid. (I admit that sounds nice some days) This is an appeal to take an inventory of what influences are shaping you. Most people want to be people of virtue, character, and depth. But how many people are willing to put in the effort to become those types of people? A lot of people want to know a second language but don’t want to study. It’s nice to want chiseled abs but donuts sure are good. As a Christ followers, we know we should.

Let me offer you an encouragement to put aside being a spiritual couch potato. Many have written on the spiritual disciplines in exhaustive fashion. I’d recommend taking a look at Don Whitney’s classic, Spiritual Disciplines (only $2 for Kindle version) and also David Mathis’s Habits of Grace. They will both serve you well. My exhortation is much more simple and brief than these works. I hope it sparks you to deeper study.

The Word of God:

It may be the most obvious advice, but we need to be people who are serious about our intake of the Word of God. I fear that many talk about the Word more than they actually take in the Word. I’m not here to levy a legalistic standard on you. I am here to ask you to identify your influences. What is shaping your heart? Is the story of the Bible your paradigm for dealing with a broken world? Where do you find stability and hope?

It’s never been easier to access the Word. Most of you have multiple Bibles, you have online resources, you have apps that will read it to you, let’s take advantage!

The People of God:

According to my count (which is not infallible), I marked 47 “one another” verses in the Bible. Love one another is the most common, but certainly not the only one. Serve one another, encourage one another, admonish one another and so on. You can’t read the NT, particular the Epistles, and come away with a self-styled individualistic version of Christianity. Christians are made for community.

I often ask people, where are you one anothering? If you choose to not take advantage of the tools your local church offers (Sunday school, home groups, etc) where are you going to get those connections with other Christians? I’m not pressing participation in a particular structure but I am asking if you have healthy, honest, and spiritually minded fellowship in the context of your local congregation.

The Mission of God:

It’s easy to forget why we’re here, isn’t it? Bills pile up, sales have to be made, calendars get full, dinner has to be prepared, homework has to be done, and survival becomes priority #1 for the day. I get it. But is that all we’re here to do, survive until the next day? Jesus has left us with the commission to make disciples and by implication, we make disciples who make disciples.

Don’t get lost in the white noise of life. Yes, we have to handle our responsibilities but let’s do so with a goal. As you build friendships with people who don’t know the Lord, keep in mind at some point it’s going to be necessary to risk some relational capital and have a gospel conversation! We aren’t doing any favors by holding back on the best news in the world.

As far as it depends on you, orient your schedule so you are influenced by truth, prioritize time with God’s people, and participate in God’s mission. God uses normal means to grow us in grace. It will probably take being intentional with stepping away from the devices from time to time to read, think, pray, and meditate. Don’t settle for shallow!

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Allen Cagle

About Allen Cagle

Allen serves as the Lead Pastor at Sunrise Community Church in Atlantic Beach, FL, in the Jacksonville area. He graduated from The Master's Seminary (MDiv) in 2005 and from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (DMin) in 2017. Allen is married to Mindy and has three awesome kids.