Churches are dropping worship services left and right. Growing up as a preacher’s kid in South of the fifties and sixties, I was in church every time the door was open – Sunday morning Sunday School and worship services, Sunday night prayer service, Wednesday night Bible study, Thursday night choir practice. And that doesn’t include youth activities, Church camp, or Vacation Bible School. I knew the inside of our church better than I knew my own home. But today, most churches and religious organizations have dropped the Sunday night service, many have eliminated the Wednesday night Bible study. And Sunday School? That was replaced years ago with “Children’s Church,” so families would only have to spend an hour at church on Sundays.
As a result, the number of hours we spend listening to preaching or teaching have dropped dramatically in the last fifty years. And typically, even the most hardcore, serious people of faith are exposed to religious teaching less than an hour per week. On the other hand, media exposure has dramatically increased. The statistics are sobering. The average American family watches TV and surfs the Internet an average of 4-5 hours per day, and children less than two years old are now watching TV daily. By the time the average teenager is 18, they’ve been exposed to as many as 100,000 beer commercials alone, not even counting the violence, coarse language, and sexual innuendo that typifies prime time TV.
The flood continues. The Census Bureau reports that teenagers will spend the equivalent of 5 ½ months next year listening to digital music players, working on computers, and watching TV. And as entertainment moves to cell phones, it will only get worse. Which makes me wonder, in our media-driven culture, who’s influencing you? Most people would agree that influence comes from the things we spend time doing. So how much time are you really spending each day in reflection, prayer, or spiritual growth? We wonder why people of faith aren’t making more of an impact in the culture, when the answer is clearly, how we’re spending our time.
Somewhere along the line, the church substituted “events” for “discipleship.” Flip through the pages of a typical Christian magazine or watching Christian TV, and you’ll find plenty of major “events.” I love events myself. But events don’t make disciples. Relationship does. I love the media, but we’ll never develop relationships or deepen our faith without putting limits on our media use. Re-think how much you use the media, and then prioritize the media in the context of your personal life. Computers, the Internet, e-mail, and even TV and radio are great tools, and non-profit and religious organizations of all kinds are using those tools to impact the culture. But media is ultimately about influence, and clearly, what we choose to expose ourselves to, will have the dominant power in our lives.
Because the truth is - at the end of your days, as you stand in front of your Creator, how important will it be that you never missed an episode of Oprah?