I read a book called The Shallows about ten years ago. The book was about the shallow nature of the human brain and why we seem incapable of consuming large amounts of text or information at a time. It’s not a Christian book but it’s well worth the read. My summary won’t be all that helpful so make sure you check out the book on Amazon and pick up a copy for yourself.
Your Brain is Lazy
The basic premise in The Shallows is that the internet has had a dramatic impact on our attention span and our ability to focus. For example, in the case of twitter our brain has been trained to read only a line or two of text before moving onto the next snippet of information. Over time our brain, a notoriously lazy organ, picks the path of least resistance and begins to prefer only consuming small amounts of text at a time. So, it’s hard for you to make it through this blog because we are in paragraph two and your brain is screaming for you to abort! Your eyes are getting heavy, you are starting to yawn, and your brain is struggling to focus on what you are reading. Let me give it to you in a way you can process.
Your brain is lazy and doesn’t want to read a lot at once.
This causes your brain to become shallow and it makes it hard to learn or read.
This has a dramatic impact on your ability to read the Bible and memorize God’s word.
The only way to reverse this shallowing effect is to retrain your brain to focus.
You should read the book about it but you might need to work your way up to it because the shallowing of your brain may make it hard to read the book about the shallowing of your brain.
It's a real chicken and egg kind of situation.
Building Deep Relational Spaces
The point of this blog, however, is not to get you to buy a copy of The Shallows. But instead to talk about building deep relational spaces using tools that are typically built to keep you shallow. Have you ever been on a Zoom call and had a different window opened up at the same time checking your email? I bet you have. I sure have. I had to reposition my camera while leading small groups to keep my honest. You can now see my hands from my camera shot so that I am not as tempted to open up a browser window or boot up a game while I am in the middle of conversation.
Social media, live streams, and team software like Slack, Discord, or Microsoft Teams are all built to help you get information fast and keep your engagement superficial. Yet, what I have found over and over again is the human desire to break away from superficiality and enter spaces that are authentic and surprisingly deep, especially online. In a world of shallow brains and technological constructs that are built to keep our minds in surface level thought humanity is desperate for depth.
One of the key issues with the church’s approach to digital space is it’s inclination to keep it shallow and superficial. People are going to social media platforms and online communities for shallow hits of dopamine and instead of running counter to that cultural force and offering something better the church has often subjected it digital strategy to the flow and agenda of digital platforms and instead of inviting people into something deeper that they contributed to the shallowing. So much so that our church’s Instagram feed is full of other Christian’s reels that are attempting to give deep theological truth with a song and a dance in under 20 seconds. I am not trying to curse the seed that is sown. But so often the drip of digital presence from our churches ask little to nothing of people other then staying to the end of the video and tapping the heart button at the end.
What if we used digital space to invite people into something deeper? What is redirected our digital consumers from shallow waters and into deep relational spaces. What if the world doesn’t need another social media strategy from a Christian and instead was desperately searching for a place to break free from their brain’s kiddie pool?
We have found that to be profoundly true at Lux. We have opened up a door to the digital space that happily dives into the deep and messy parts of their life, and we have seen profound life transformation taking place! Discipleship doesn’t happen in the shallows. So, if you want to make disciples in your church’s digital strategy and not just more slightly discontented, consumeristic, like and follow bots you are going to need a different approach to digital space.
I will leave you with this question. How can you churches strategy change the end game goal from getting more likes, more followers, or more engagement, to making more disciples?
What do you think? Share your ideas below or on social media.
Through the Digital Church Network we are helping physical and digital churches better understand the discipleship process, and helping churches and church planters understand this and other decentralized mindset shifts. Joining the DCN is free and be encouraged!
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