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More God, Less Time?

By Mark D. Roberts | Saturday, January 10, 2009

A friend of mine (thanks, Don) pointed me to a fascinating article in the Los Angeles Times. It’s called, “A closer, faster walk with thee.” The writer, Duke Helfand, chronicles the growing tendency among American Christians to squeeze God into very short segments of time. It would be easy to complain about this, but I think it deserves some thoughtful attention besides criticism. At any rate, here’s the link to the article. I’d be interested in your observations.

Topics: Christian Living |

6 Responses to “More God, Less Time?”

  1. Thomas Buck Says:
    January 10th, 2009 at 4:48 am

    If, in fact, weekly church attendance has hovered around the 25% mark for the last 100 years, then it sounds as if the church is now finding ways to attempt to keep folks in touch with the Lord.

    The article uses the unfortunate word, “capitalize,” which can have a negative connotation, though I’m not sure it was intended by the author.

    Frankly, I find the 25% attendance figure remarkably good for the country as a whole. About one-third of our congregation of 1600 attends church on any given Sunday. It’s not always the same people. Our minister has commented that many younger adults consider themselves regular attenders if they are in weekend worship once a month or so. Attempting to meet the needs of those whose viewpoint is a bit different from ours is a good thing, as long as we’re not making spiritual compromises. Sometimes separating practice from doctrine is not so easy for us humans.

    It was unfortunate that the gentleman from Saddleback was quoted about “nodding off” on Sunday. It sounded like a negative reflection on Sunday worship to me, but perhaps he didn’t intend it that way.

    As for nodding off in church, it seems the first recorded instance was in Acts, so it’s been a long-term phenomenon. Also, I seem to recall Norman Vincent Peale lamenting the fact that no one falls asleep in church anymore in his 1952 book, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” He saw it as a sign people were not relaxed enough!

    Anything we can do to sincerely meet pre-Christians and our brothers and sisters where they are is good, in my opinion.

  2. chris giammona Says:
    January 10th, 2009 at 7:56 am


    I agree that it would be easy to criticize such an approach, so here is one quick observation. I have met many people who fall into the lifestyle trap described in the article - “When do you ever find time for God?”

    What I encourage people to do is to learn from the monastic tradition (Yes, I am Presbyterian). To use small chunks of time throughout the day to meet God. I learned that the morning quiet time is not enough to sustain me throughout the day. I am bombarded all during the day with my sinfulness, stress inducers, and interactions with other people.

    I try to carve out 6-7 times during the day to “pray the hours”. I think there is something to be said for a monastic way of life in the midst of the 21s century! Why not come to God at various times of the day to combat the daily grind that each day brings.


  3. Ray Says:
    January 10th, 2009 at 8:49 am

    From the article:
    “Religion is gradually being remade in the image of mass-consumer capitalism,” said Christian Smith, a sociologist of American religion at the University of Notre Dame, who adds that the changes have met mixed reactions. “What for some people is creative innovation,” Smith said, “is pandering to other people.”

    We’ve long recognized the consumerism that exists among people today as they “shop” for churches that “meet their needs”. I think finding a way to reach into that mindset to meet people where they are is a good thing.

    Remember back when sociologists and economists were predicting that techological advances would usher in an era in which people enjoyed more and more free time? HA!!!!

  4. Carl Says:
    January 10th, 2009 at 10:15 am

    As has been noted, there is both good here and come caution. I see good in that some of these are ways to help people be more aware of God throughout the day and not relegate him to a particular chunk or ignore him altogether. I was wondering just the other day about using technology to create a modern version of the monastic bells, so that my phone/computer/whatever would call me to prayer throughout the day. I appreciate those who are trying to help people spend more time with God, who are not giving up but creatively seeking ways to remind people of God’s presence throughout their day.

    On the other hand, there are questions for me. One quote in the article said, “it’s not meant to replace the Bible. it’s meant to whet your appetite.” If that’s what it does, great. But what prevents this from being a way to simply drop a bite of God into the midst of the plate full of other activities in life, rather than pointing them to Jesus as the bread of life?
    Does this approach cause people to think that reading their 1 minute Bible snack is enough? Does it create and/or reinforce a culture where we simply try and squeeze God in to the midst of our busy-ness? Does it fail to challenge, and in fact promote (or at least tacitly approve of), this lifestyle of busy-ness that burdens so many?

    Meet people where they are, but don’t let them stay there seems to be the challenge.

  5. Steve Says:
    January 11th, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    I think that it is important to build a habit of spending some daily time with the Bible. Having said that, the reality is that many people are so busy they never develop the habit. I do a short daily devotional Bible reading five days a week on a site called God’s Daytimer ( It takes 3 to 5 minutes to read the verse, read it in context and read the very short devotional that comes with it. I actually started it for people in our church but it now has people from all over who have signed up to receive the RSS feed or email subscription. Based on the very positive feedback I receive from the site, I think it is a very positive approach for helping people develop a daily Bible time.

  6. More God, Less Time? Part 2 | Says:
    January 12th, 2009 at 12:02 am

    […] I encouraged my readers to post their comments, and I received several very good ones (as usual). You might want to check out the variety of perspectives here. […]


Thanks for your willingness to make a comment. Note: I do not moderate comments before they are posted, though they are automatically screened for profanities, spam, etc., and sometimes the screening program holds comments for moderation even though they're not offensive. I encourage open dialogue and serious disagreement, and am always willing to learn from my mistakes. I will not delete comments unless they are extraordinarily rude or irrelevant to the topic at hand. You do need to login in order to make a comment, because this cuts down on spam. You are free to use a nickname if you wish. Finally, I will eventually read all comments, but I don't have the time to respond to them on a consistent basis because I've got a few other demands on my time, like my "day job," my family, sleep, etc.

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