An Instant Culture

"I love my independence and hate being slowed down. I value efficiency and want measurable results. Don't tell me a story. Give me the bottom line...now!" 

It's the M.O. of the world we're in. But how are we (people of faith) to live? Is it possible to maintain such a fast pace while sustaining faithfulness?

I tried to run at the world's breakneck speed while "building Kingdom" but spun out of control. I couldn't sustain it. I couldn't make sense of it. All the work I was doing for Jesus had left me looking very little like Jesus. 

In Eugene Peterson's "A Long Obedience In The Same Direction" he articulates a response to all the above that's well-worth paying attention to....

One aspect of the world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once. We assume that if something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently....
It is not difficult in such a world to get a person interested in the message of the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate....

Eugene's words took me back to one of my peak on-stage moments. Standing before thousands, I delivered an "altar call" where the decision was obvious—"Say YES to Jesus!" The band played emotionally and I appealed compellingly—the "repeat after me" prayer promised life-altering results. But out of a thousand raised hands in the public experience, few returned for personal discipleship. Of those who did, even less understood Christianity's whole-life implications. Like the "rich young ruler," many left when they found out. I couldn't help but think...

"Where did we go wrong? Are we missing something?"

The Religious Tourist

Peterson draws a parallel between today's religiosity and the world's largest consumer service industry....

In our culture anything, even news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship....
Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Religion is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure. For some it is a weekly jaunt to church; for others, occasional visits to special services. Some, with a bent for religious entertainment and sacred diversion, plan their lives around special events like retreats, rallies and conferences. We go to see a new personality, to hear a new truth, to get a new experience and so somehow expand our otherwise humdrum lives. The religious life is defined as the latest and the newest.... We'll try anything—until something else comes along.

Keep this imagery of the self-gratification-seeking tourist in mind....

Everyone is in a hurry. The persons whom I lead in worship, among whom I counsel, visit, pray, preach and teach, want shortcuts. They want me to help them fill out the form that will get them instant credit. They are impatient for results. They have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist and only want the high points.... The Christian life cannot mature under such conditions and in such ways.

Perhaps I was seeing the answer to what was missing—to what had gone so wrong. We had adopted the world's ways in our pursuit of the world's attention. We had made "converts" our customers. We had promised immediate results to win impatient consumers. (Read more about our story HERE.) 

Countercultural Faith

Peterson goes on to paint a picture of a radically different and reorienting way of being....

For recognizing and resisting the stream of the world's ways there are two biblical designations for people of faith that are extremely useful: disciple and pilgrim.
Disciple (mathetes) says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master, Jesus Christ. We are in a growing-learning relationship, always. A disciple is a learner, but not in the academic setting of a school-room, rather at the work site of a craftsman. We do not acquire information about God but skills in faith.
Pilgrim (parepidemos) tells us we are people who spend our lives going someplace, going to God, and whose path for getting there is the way, Jesus Christ.  

How does the idea of being a learner apprenticed to Jesus and a traveler on a lifelong journey resonate with you?

How are you encouraged and/or challenged as a follower of Jesus in today's instant culture?

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