An infinite appetite for distraction

Too much choiceThere is so much need around us and there are so many people caring for the poor, the sick, the lost, the abandoned, the abused, the environment…. The needs, causes and opportunities for service can become overwhelming. In my own small city there are individuals, non-profit organisations, and faith communities caring for a vast array of causes; and so many more beyond the city and around the world. Many are worthy; many deserve my attention; many deserve my time, energy and commitment. Most get none of these things from me.

With Facebook, everyone can create, quite painlessly, his or her own cause. It takes no more time or commitment than typing, “I support this, that, or the other, cause. Will you join my cause?” There, it’s done. Of course, some of these are set up and managed by folk who commit far more to these things than most and who do get involved collecting money or signatures, sending petitions, building and clearing, caring and helping. But for most of us the sheer multitude of appeals numbs our senses and we become overwhelmed by the intensity of it all; we are easily distracted away to something less intense and easier to cope with, something less demanding emotionally.

Aldous Huxley in his Brave New World was worried that we would be distracted into irrelevance.

Distractions come in all shapes and sizes. I want to write, but someone has commented on Facebook or posted a picture that demands a response; a newspaper has to be read; an email requires a reply; a blog post catches my attention and must be perused, which links to a multitude of other interesting posts and articles. Then the time for writing has gone and all I have done is read what others have read and added a word here or there.

In the Church too we create a smorgasbord of activities in which we think the Church should be involved and try to persuade individuals to become concerned and take charge. But there are more activities than people, so the same old faithful take on more and more, effectively doing less and less.

At this time of New Year resolutions and goal setting we need to take stock of what it is that God wants us to do. That is not something separate from who I am, since the God who wants me to do, is the God who made me, and who continually shapes my life. What is it that the One who knows me better than I know myself, who knows (better than my closest friend) to what I am best suited, what is that he wants from me; what is he shaping me to do and to become? The question is relevant whether I am concerned about my career or what I do in my spare time.

It’s a question we need to ask in our local Church. What difference can we make in this particular place, in this particular time? What does this disparate group of people that meets together in Christ’s name do best? Listening is the key: listening to the Christ who calls us here and who forms us, and listening humbly to the community in which we find ourselves. Through listening we put aside the distractions and become part of the community rather than simply joining a cause, however worthy it may be.

Three other posts of interest on this topic:
In a Clay Pot wrote: Church Planter not so bad after all
Sky Pilot wrote: Christmas comes to Mpophomeni
Jevlir Caravansary wrote: The Missionary’s House

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4 Comments

Filed under Community, Odds & Ends

4 responses to “An infinite appetite for distraction

  1. I love this, “We need to take stock of what it is that God wants us to do. That is not something separate from who I am, since the God who wants me to do, is the God who made me, and who continually shapes my life. What is it that the One who knows me better than I know myself, who knows (better than my closest friend) to what I am best suited, what is that he wants from me; what is he shaping me to do and to become?”

    Thanks for putting my questions into words and for doing it so eloquently!

    Happy New Year!!

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  2. Right on on so many counts! I like how you boiled it down to listening to Christ and listening to the community. Your point about the faithful doing more and more with less and less effect is very true.
    Interestingly, in Church Planter Darrin Patrick tells the story of how Mission: St Louis spent several years floundering in pro-activity, with their hands in multiple causes all over the city. It was only when they focused their efforts on a particular need right near their church (in this case, the local elementary school) that relationships were built and lasting change began to occur in the neighborhood. Things exploded from there.

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