“I Can’t Change the World, I’m Amusing Myself to Death”

Monday Discussion

And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach. Mark 3:13-14 (ESV)

Jesus walked physically and spiritually with his earliest disciples. No cars, trains, horses or donkeys–they walked everywhere, and that gave them something valuable that modern society seems to have little of–time. Life was lived out and experienced together. Lessons, laughs, minor squabbles among the disciples, stones in a sandal, rashes from poisonous plants, avoidance of snakes, awe at a sunset, refreshment from a spring to sooth a dusty throat, stories about childhood, all of this and more were a part of the long walk together from town to town. There was an “intentional withness” to Jesus’ discipleship pattern. He called them to himself that he might send them out to preach. They were going to observe something in him and from him and they were going to be sent out to do similar kinds of things (Cf. Luke 10) The apostle Paul seems to have developed his missionary band in a similar fashion. We have some major barriers to overcome in our time

  1. transportation makes us more mobile; we’re simply not around.
  2. jobs are farther away, isolating us in our cars for long stretches of time.
  3. refrigeration keeps us inside, food supplies are near.
  4. American individualism and views of privacy further isolate us.
  5. electronic gadgets of all kinds (TV, radio, ipod, computers, kindles, hand held games, xbox, etc., etc.) encourage us to amuse ourselves to death. [See Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death]
  6. concern for family members living at great distances from us.
  7. easy availability of books make it possible to be a part from others for long periods.
  8. attention to our ornamental gardens and lawns keeps us focused on our “castle”

Combined, all these create a culture where spending the kind of time together with young disciples that would be truly transformative in their (and our) lives is almost unheard of. How do we learn to do life together better? Question: How do we get more “withness time” with new disciples?


7 thoughts on ““I Can’t Change the World, I’m Amusing Myself to Death”

  1. Careful, now. Don’t mess with the kindle. 🙂

    Kidding, of course. You’re right on target.

    Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending the afternoon and evening with a refugee family from Iraq. At times I felt frustrated because I had an agenda — specific questions I wanted to ask for an article I’m writing. And people kept stopping by, calling, children were running around…you get the idea. A conversation I thought would take about an hour took four hours.

    At one point, I asked, “What has surprised you about America? What didn’t you expect?”

    Without missing a beat, he answered, “Americans are so busy. They are too busy to visit.”

    True. And humbling.

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  2. My friend Pete is not a disciple (well, not my disciple), yet I am planning a camping trip with him. We will have three days in the countryside lacking a number of mod-cons.

    We’ll still have our smartphones, but that’s about it. I am hoping it will be a time not only to refresh ourselves, but to learn about each other and from each other.

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  3. Everything moves too fast today. Including me. I want to squeeze more and more into one day. I don’t have time for delays–trains, computer freezes, slow people, lost files. It’s difficult to build “margins” into my life. Why can’t I simply allow God to plan my days?

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  4. Llama Momma,
    I’m sure the article will be great. Your Iranian friend’s answer would be duplicated by almost every non-western émigré you would talk to. Most American’s are blind to it. I think one of the reasons God is bringing the world here is to wake us up to the over-busy, uninvolved, disengaged nature of our lives.

    Mark,
    Great stuff. Hope you have a great time. Look for an opportunity to ask some of Bill Fay’s five questions. (Search in the blog for a summary). let me know when and I’ll keep you in prayer.

    Carole,
    I’m not sure eliminating planning of our days is the key. “Finding margins”–now that is another thought. Maybe that’s what we need to plan into our plans–margin. And maybe a few less TV shows, computer games, web browsing (Now there’s a time waster!), better sleep and eating patterns so we have more energy–they all play a part. But the larger issues I think we need to get our hearts and heads around, are things like selfishness, hospitality, willingness to sacrifice, asking God to break our hearts for our neighbors. When these things get sorted out in our hearts, we will start to have a larger impact.

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  5. Marty,
    It seems to work with me, and with the congregation I lead, to do a few things:

    1) Use technology to open the doors for personal intimacy instead of using it for a port to waste time. (i.e. Use private messages and info to reach out and offer real personal ‘withness’, instead of just sending an email/text. This way, we allow technology to be redeemed for the glory of God.)

    2) During breaks between our Discipleship groups, we interact and go out to eat, or over to homes of others to ‘do life with them.’ The focus is on new inquirers/visitors or new members This has been a tremendous success for the 4-6 weeks off time of growing in the Word in groups, and transitioning into applying the truths and growing in real life with others.

    3) Limit time on email/text etc, unless emergency, seeking hands on and face to face time entering people’s need and building actual and personal relationships instead of leaning on a cyber-relational model.

    4) See, through prayer and repentance, the eternal investment of time with disciples, and refuse to forfeit that time because of deep-seated conviction and commitments.

    5) Double down on necessary time to incorporate integration. (ex. – I need to go to Wall-mart to pick up some things, so I call a person(s) and meet them for a cup of coffee or at a sandwich shop for some personal time.)

    6) Be proactive in stamping out the isolation of other believers because the only time people speak to them is when they see them on Sunday Mornings! (Again, deep conviction is needed from leadership teaching. Address the ‘my four and no more’ element in every fellowship, where some members only look and seek those they already know.)

    7) Without legalism, encourage others to ‘turn off’ the wasted time of TV, and get on mission. Instead the ‘life sucking’ waste of too much TV, we can experience spiritual refreshing when our time is offer in ‘life giving’ measure to others. (Acts. 20:35)

    Ahhhhh….that’s enough for now.

    God bless you brother,
    Terry

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