Spiritual Disciplines in a Digital Age
The digitally connected world has given us access to more information and less understanding. It puts me in contact with more people but provides less relationally to these contacts. Our technology allows me to see everywhere but not to visit. It is as if the Disney movie “Wall-e” is beginning to happen.
As I’ve done a great of thinking, teaching, and writing about spiritual disciplines, I feel a certain press to ask people to go analog for a while so they can more deeply connect spiritually to God and others. But, what if the digital age can be helpful? I think that it can and I’d offer a few ways to leverage digital tools for the work of spiritual development.
Constancy in your Bible reading. Each generation believes that they are busier than the last. Whether or not we are correct, many of us would admit that there is less Bible reading now than in generations before. Through Bible apps on smart phones and online Bible study platforms, we can now access Bible reading without carrying a leather-bound copy with us everywhere. Additionally, the digital age gives us immediate access to numerous Bible reading plans. Leverage these assets to make your personal Bible reading more consistent.
Notes that go everywhere. I have numerous physical notebooks on my shelves where, in the past, I’ve written Bible studies (and sermons), outlined passages, and recorded lessons I’ve learned from the Scriptures. Now, I can record them digitally and sync these lessons across every digital device I own. Platforms such as Google Docs and Evernote allow me to find them with a simple search rather than scour through the pages of several Moleskine notebooks. Even though I still carry a notebook everywhere because writing helps me think. Recording these lessons digitally allows me to revisit them more easily in times of need, reflection, and thankfulness.
Journal as you go. The digital resources also give me an instant way to record what I’m experiencing, learning, and discerning from God right now. With a smart phone or a laptop, I’m able to immediately journal so that lessons are not loss on my inconsistent memory. Instead, I jot it down and then can expand on it over time. Physical notebooks have done the same for a long time and now we have new tools to help us.
Reminders. I often grow weary of the dings and buzzes from my smart phone. But we can use them to our advantage rather than be abused by them. Set up your calendar that has a daily or weekly reminder about a study to accomplish or person to encourage. If you’re seeking to memorize a scriptural passage, your devices can alert you to the verse multiple times a week or a day. Use your device to remind you of what is most important rather than just allowing it to push random news alerts to you.
Magnify your voice. Social media platforms can make you sympathetic or a huge jerk. They can help you be active for the sake of others or a hacktivist who just posts the latest hashtag related to a tragedy. Technology like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs (like the one you are reading) helps to magnify your voice. It helps you to not cloister your spiritual journey but share it with others. Make the decision that technology will be leveraged to benefit others rather than just a megaphone to shout at others.
Connect the spiritual to… everything. The world is spiritual. We too often lose that truth. It becomes easy to divide our spiritual growth into a category that really does not include work, recreation, entertainment, politics, and a myriad of other issues. But, we are spiritual beings in a world created by God for the purposes of serving His spiritual kingdom. Technology should link everything together and everything has a spiritual implication. As you see news alerts, it should drive you to prayer. As you encounter worldviews, it should help you to think about the culture in a biblical manner. Facebook posts of a person’s bad news should drive you to serve the one in need. And on the list can go. We should be reminded that people are more than the avatars they use and the pixels of their posts.
Bridges that create relationships. In the end, use technology to connect in the real world. Share your stories of growth in such a way that it leads to face-to-face meetings to share burdens. As you encounter disagreements with people online, seek to meet them so you can know their story and share your hope. As you discover needs and the biblical truth that meets the need, get out from behind the screen and do something.
The use of technology in the digital age holds the same temptations as those who write in notebooks and sit in their personal libraries. We can hide behind the screen or the page. Don’t do it. Instead, recognize that your spiritual life is for the benefit of others. Go and live it out in the real world.
For more about spiritual disciplines and missional living, check out my latest book: “Habits for Our Holiness.”