Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summaries, short-cuts and spiritual growth

Seth Godin posted a great piece recently on the dangers of thinking that the convenient, summarized version of information is enough. Here is an extract:
"You're probably smart enough to 'get it' merely by reading the 140 character summary of just about anything. But of course, that doesn't mean you understand it, or that it changed you. All it means is that you were quickly able to sort it into an appropriate category, to make a decision about where it belongs in your mental filing cabinet. The best experiences and the biggest ideas don't fit into a category. They change it. They don't get filed away, they transform us." (emphasis mine)
I think this is worth pondering when it comes to spiritual growth, particularly learning the Bible. There is no shortage of biblical ideas being tweeted, short bible overview guides or devotionals that can be done in a few minutes. Some devotionals I've seen lately advertise that they can be read in as little as a minute! These are not inherently bad things. Twitter is a very useful tool, overview guides can be very helpful when used alongside Bible reading and shorter devotionals might be a really useful for new Christians taking baby steps into good spiritual growth habits or people who genuinely have no spare time due to unusually demanding responsibilities.

But, I think these summaries can be dangerous if we let them become a short-cut. It is easy to feel like we're getting somewhere because we've managed to learn more facts we can slot into our mental bank of knowledge. Not only that, but we can do it so quickly when everything is neatly summarised for our quick processing!

One problem is, these summarised forms can become a substitute for actually reading the Bible. The summaries may be useful, but they ain't the inspired word of God. Additionally, learning the bible is not a game of he or she who takes in the most facts wins. It's about learning to love God and being transformed towards becoming more like him. That kind of change and growth takes reflection, prayerful engagement and sticking with the process over a long period of time. Just quickly absorbing summaries or snippets before moving on to the next thing won't get you there.

My challenge for you (and myself!) this week is to not fall into the trap of prioritising how quickly we can take in bulk biblical information, but to slowly, prayerfully engage with extended portions of the life changing word of God itself.

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/