The American Family Association Journal (www.afajournal.org) recently reported on a research study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. They surveyed 8-18 year olds to assess the amount of time they spend with entertainment media (TV, the web, iPods, texting, cells, etc.). The results were staggering, even to this old-fashioned guy who thinks an hour or two a day spent texting, talking on the phone or Facboking is far too much. Drumroll . . .
Young people in America spend nearly 8 hours a day using entertainment media! That’s 53 hours a week!
66% of young people own cell phones, while 76% have iPods or similar MP3 players.
So, let’s get this straight, the avergae kid in America spends 13 hours more than a full work week on electronic gadgets. I can only imagine what our churches would be doing for God’s glory if kids spent even 10% of that time studying Scripture and talking about Jesus. How in the world do they find time to go to school? Oh wait, a 5th grade teacher recently told me she spends an inordinate amount of time fighting with kids and parents to get them to stop texting while she is teaching. How do they make time for homework? Sports? Maybe this is why kids are becoming more and more obese, unhealthy and diebetic? When do they eat, for crying out loud? Family time? Proper sleep?
Dear Christian parents and friends, this is absolutely absurd to the point of insanity. You do tightly monitor your child’s electronic media usage, don’t you? Surely your child is nowhere near this 53 hour / week average? If your child is even close to that threshold, I must ask you, when are you praying together as a family (and no, I do not just mean at meal time)? When are you talking together about missionaries, lost people groups, ongoing persecution of believers around the world? When are you opening the word together and hearing the very words of God in your homes? When are you serving your neighbors and the hurting people around you? When are you spending time with real people in face-to-face relationship?
God help us! I have viewed things like Facebook and texting with extreme caution for years now. Friends and family have told me to lighten up. I did, which is why you’re reading a blog by me now. But, I am still not on FB and have no plans to be. My children do not have cells phones and will not for many years to come. I do not have a cell phone. My Daddy taught me growing up that men who talk on the phone for hours are “sissies.” I took him at his word! Now men have phones permanently afixed to their ears.
My fear is that we are becoming a more self-centered culture at light speed, and training our children to be focused on their own importance first and foremost. Do we really all think people are just sitting on the edge of their seats at night waiting to see what petty activity we’re doing at the present? Why the unstoppable desire to check MY text messages every few minutes? Are all the texts you are sending and receiving so critically important that you cannot even turn off the phone to drive, during school, or while listening to the sermon at church? Maybe this is why so many are so enamored with texting – it is a great escape and avoidance of any real significant, deep conversation about things that matter forever.
The Apostle John, the elder statesman of Christianity in the 80s A.D., wrote to those redeemed in Christ: “I have many things to write to you, but will not with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full” (2 John 12).
Friends, we’re losing this passion for real relationship. The church is losing her desire for real flesh and blood community, and our children are losing any ability to even interact meaningfully eyeball to eyeball. I’m not the only one worried. Jesse Rice wrote a book about it called The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community.
I realize all entertainment media outlets are not evil in and of themselves. FB can be used in a positive way even to spread the gospel. Keeping up from afar is a piece of cake now, and that’s not so bad, especially for people in my community separated by military deployments. My concern is how few Christians I see actually redeeming their FB account. My concern is that Christians spend more time on the web or on the phone than they do in the Word each week. My concern is that Christians are now viewing FB as their “church.” My concern is that Christians are terrified to share the gospel with others face to face, or to lovingly correct false belief or corrupt living, unless of course it’s over email, where we’re all bold as lions.
Real community is joyfully messy. It involves bearing burdens side by side, fighting sin in the power of the Holy Spirit shoulder to shoulder, singing to God mouth beside mouth, listening to the Word ears alongside ears, and serving King Jesus arm locked in arm, taking the gospel to our cities and to our world. This real world flesh and blood visible expression of the Gospel of Jesus being lived out is the local church. Her task and privileges simply cannot be adequately performed on Facebok or cell phones.
We must raise up the next generation to know and love the joyfully messy reality of real sinners, redeemed by a real risen Savior, living out the faith in real covenantal community, for the glory of God and His Christ. To do it, we’ll have to turn off the TV more often, log off, shut down the cells, and bury our flesh and blood faces into the pages of our Bibles TOGETHER.