10 1/2 hours PER DAY! We mentioned this statistic in church not long ago. That’s the amount of time the average American adult spends consuming media, as calculated by the Nielsen Corp.
Media is simply the air we breathe nowadays. Even without a smart phone you can’t help but be inundated with voices and images vying for your attention. They seek to shape your thoughts and claim your affections. As Christians we know most of these voices are not God’s voice. Most of them do not want God’s best for us. Most of them do not align with his word. But what can we do? Retreating to a monastery sounds like a lovely option sometimes. But as a permanent solution, that hardly seems in line with Christ’s command to go into all the world.
This is a challenging topic but it’s one we’d better face. Most of us would prefer to turn our minds off and just veg out in front of the tube. Or we would prefer to fill our social media world with voices that make us feel good; that tell us we’re right. But followers of Jesus cannot approach their world this way. If we are to be on mission, that mission must start with an honest review of our own lives and, when it comes to the media we consume, a careful assessment of the situation. To help us think this through I’d like to take a page out of the environmentalist’s playbook.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Reduce. Turn the media off. Be still and know that I am God! our Lord commands us (Ps. 46:10). This is difficult advice! As soon as I sit in silence my mind wants to wander. Being still is something we have to work at. Remember the adage, whenever you say ‘yes’ to one thing you’re saying ‘no’ to something else. What are you saying ‘yes’ to that makes you want to say ‘no’ to spending time in silence with your God? Pray about it. Make a decision. And turn it off.
Reuse. Did you know there are some good television shows, movies, and music that were made many years ago? Some of the best advice I’ve ever received is to read old books. Well, likewise, you should watch old movies. Choose shows that you know are top quality, life-affirming and soul-feeding in your weekly media consumption routine. Your kids will thank you for it one day. By the way, Dad, thanks for making me watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” all those years. I’m better because of it! Hollywood needs us to believe that newer is always better and that the latest film or hit drama is “must-see tv”. But it isn’t. Your life was fine before you binge watched the latest season of the bachelor and it will continue to be fine (I dare say it will be far better in fact!) if you abstain from watching the next season.
Recycle. You’re going to spend time consuming media. Lots of time. Can we agree that at least a portion of that time will be trash time? That is, you’ll watch or listen to some things that actually diminish your quality of life and make it harder to love God, your family, and your neighbor. Recycle that trash time. You can do that by bringing godly voices into your media feed. Instead of the radio, put on a podcast during the morning commute. There’s nothing wrong with rocking out to Billy Joel once in a while (a guilty pleasure of mine!) but he’s not likely to stir your soul or ignite your mind like a Christian pastor or thinker will. Don’t know where to start? Try the Gospel Coalition podcast. They range from 10-60 minute spots on every topic under the sun from the leading evangelical thinkers at work today. Have another podcast you love? Let me know about it. Want more ideas? Drop me a line and we’ll talk.
2 “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NLT).