Australian research found that “If pastors could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ…they would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible—specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives.”
Similarly, The Center for Bible Engagement discovered that “the number one thing you can do for yourself spiritually is read the Bible four times a week or more. Read it this frequently, and your life looks completely different to those who don’t read the Bible, or read it less than that.”
Another survey that resulted in the book What 1000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, found that “Reflection on Scripture is, by far, the most influential personal spiritual practice.”
And yet these basics of personal spirituality, Bible reading and prayer, are so difficult to maintain in the digital age. Consider some of the obstacles we face in trying to make prayer and Bible reading a regular part of our lives:
1. Loss of boundaries: Working life is no longer limited to one place and certain hours, but we are always on from first thing to last thing at night, always contactable, even on vacation. 75% of 25-29 year olds sleep with their phones. 25% of employees say that they feel their job security depends on them being available beyond normal working hours.
2. Loss of concentration: Tests of office workers reveal that they check email 30-40 times an hour, although they think it’s only 10-15 times an hour. 1 in 4 people check their smartphone every 30 minutes, 1 in 5 every 10 minutes.
3. Loss of reading ability: Computer scrolling has resulted in much more scanning and speed-reading, the exact opposite of what’s required to profit from Bible reading.
4. Loss of meditation: Deep and prolonged thought on anything is very rare as minds flit from thing to thing to thing. We consume three times as much info as we did 50 years ago but think about it much less.
5. Loss of memory: Memorizing Scripture texts and references has become a lost art because we just need the odd word and a rough idea of location to Google the verse.
6. Loss of problem solving: We don’t work at answering questions, puzzling something through but, again, just Google it.
7. Loss of social connection: We don’t need people’s help but just Google it. “In YouTube is my Father, Michael Anthony Adams describes how YouTube has become his substitute father, teaching him things like how to tie a tie and fix a flat.
8. Loss of sleep: Excess and late technology use damages quality and length of sleep. Kids are consuming 11 hours of media a day with huge impact on quality and quantity of sleep.
9. Loss of quiet: Constant beeps, buzzes, and updates reduce undisturbed time for the brain to rest. Unlike other revolutionary media like radio and TV, the Internet is ubiquitous. We never get even a few minutes waiting in line with our own thoughts but turn to the smartphone to fill it up.
10. Loss of friendships: Online friendships have become more common than face-to-face. Loneliness has become one of the most common complaints of our day.
11. Loss of family time: Family members are constantly connected to outside world when in the home.
12. Loss of privacy: We don’t have much of a private life any more as so much lived out in public arena, making mistakes very public too. Also, so much gathering of personal data is going on undetected.
13. Loss of time: So much time being wasted, reducing time for devotional life and Christian service
14. Loss of purity: Multiple and manifold temptations and all in the privacy of our own homes.
15. Loss of patience: We have grown used to instant results, but daily devotions are a long-term program with rarely or barely perceptible changes and improvements.
16. Loss of wisdom: We can access more knowledge via the Internet but the lack of possessing and owning that knowledge in our own minds prevents our brain making connections, discovering connections, seeing the bigger picture. How do we interpret information, organize it, process it, discriminate, draw conclusions from it, when all we know is in Google rather than in our brains?
17. Loss of humility: In This is your brain on Google, Kate Shellnut wrote: “These days, we still say things like “I don’t know how” and “I can’t remember it,” but our ignorance rarely lasts long. Seconds later, it gets pulled up on Google or YouTube. The information we don’t know is so close—quite literally at our fingertips—that we forget we don’t know it.”
18. Loss of routine: Regularity and rhythm are rare in people’s lives because of the unpredictable nature and hours of jobs nowadays.
Personal devotions in the face of such a digital deluge? Impossible surely!
Difficult, but not impossible, and tomorrow I’ll give you 20 tips for maintaining a devotional life in the digital age.
UPDATE: Here’s the link to 20 Tips for Personal Devotions in the Digital Age.