As Christians we practice our faith in a variety of ways. We go to church, we pray, we read our Bible, and we use our gifts to serve the Lord by serving others. We’re called by God to live out our faith in the places we live and around the people we know. This is always true for disciples of Jesus.
But there’s more to practicing our faith. If we’re going to be people of sufficient spiritual depth and resilience, we need to build into our lives habits that undergird and give shape to our everyday routines and relationships.
The language of church history is that of spiritual disciplines. And these disciplines—or practices—include prayer, Bible reading and meditation, fasting, solitude and silence, and a number of others.
Common to all of these practices is the manner in which they enable us to pay attention: specifically to the presence of God, and to ourselves. The purpose of these practices is to help us cultivate a receptivity and awareness to the voice of God in our lives.
Such practices also challenge us. For instance, practicing silence can make us aware of our tendency to fill the space up with our words. Fasting might cause me to confront a particular food addiction. Intentional spiritual practices challenge me to face my bad habits and the various ways I distract myself from dealing with my soul in the presence of God.
Spiritual practices are also counter-cultural. Because engaging in them means not conceding that our devices and social media ought to determine our priorities, habits, and patterns of thinking. And as well as being an affront to the god of technology, spiritual practices also work to dethrone the gods of money, comfort, popularity, family, and whatever else we elevate to divine status in our daily lives (by our practice if not our intention).
We live in an accelerating culture, where constant technological change is the driving force of so much. More and more, people inhabit virtual spaces. The “Meta-verse” is coming if not already here. As a result, many live profoundly disembodied lives. We relate to one another through the glow of our screens rather than face to face.
For this reason, and because the Christian faith is profoundly physical, we need spiritual practices for here and now, for living in an accelerating culture. If we’re going to be faithful followers of our incarnate Lord, we need practices that ground us and orient us in the actual time and space we occupy.
This is not a call to abandon the digital realm. Nor is it to argue that Christians shouldn’t be on social media or own smartphones. After all, I’m typing these words into an iPhone. And while I think leaving Facebook behind and ignoring Twitter might be a mentally and spiritually healthier route, I acknowledge most people won’t take it.
But if we’re going to live with these forms of technology and communication, we definitely need to learn how to manage them with wisdom. Our participation in the world of the internet, social media, and our digital toys is a matter of discipleship.
Over the course of the next several posts, I’m going to discuss what I’m calling spiritual practices for an accelerating age. The ones I’m going to talk about are not among the historically traditional spiritual disciplines.
But given the challenges we face in our culture, I hope the practices I suggest will provide some means of positioning us to become people who are spiritually attentive to the presence and activity of God in our lives.
And though perhaps it goes without saying, the God of whom I speak is the triune God of the Christian faith: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the Trinitarian God of the Christian faith who is a God of relationship, of intimacy, of fellowship, who is infinitely personal, and who therefore has made us to know him, ourselves, and one another. Spiritual practices are a means of participating in this reality.
My suggestions for spiritual practices for an accelerating age are as follows: turn off your phone, open a book, go outside and do something, use your hands, enjoy a meal with family and friends, and pay attention to where you are.
No doubt there are more we could list. Maybe more will come to my mind. It’s simply my desire to offer some reflections on how to practice our faith in ways that keep us spiritually sane and grounded in a world that is mired in distraction and discouragement, where it’s virtually impossible to escape the clutches of technology and the temptation of busyness.
So next time I’ll offer some thoughts on the spiritual practice of turning off our phones.
I guess you’ll have to have your phone on long enough to read it.
One thought on “Spiritual Practices for an Accelerating Age: Introduction”
Derek – Best to you and your ministry. I enjoy reading your offerings. Just a slight tap on the wrist, however, as I do all of my reading of books, newspapers, magazines on digital devices. I can adjust the font style, size, and spacing, plus I have everything I need available in one device. I suspect you’re referring more to those who misuse their devices as “toys: rather than use them as “tools.” Even so, I look forward to further posts. God bless!