Demolishing the Culture of Busyness


I didn’t want to put out two “Dire Dan” posts in a row, but besides the problems we have with taking care of the least of these, we have a serious problem with busyness. Yep, speed kills...and now we have the proof!Any long-time reader knows that I feel busyness damages the soul and makes us less aware of the the Lord’s leading. And it’s a growing problem.

Now my suspicion is no longer conjecture.

Dr. Michael Zigarelli, associate professor of Management at the Charleston Southern University School of Business, conducted a study over five years that shows that Christians are succumbing to the tyranny of the urgent.

I’ll wait here while you read the article.

Read it? Great!

In light of yesterday’s post, how can we possibly meet the needs of others if we’re always focused on our own lives as we rush hither and yon? Well, we can’t. Sort of puts a crimp in those Kingdom of God plans, doesn’t it.

Who succumbs to the rush?

And professionals whose busyness interferes with developing their relationship with God include lawyers (72 percent), managers (67 percent), nurses (66 percent), pastors (65 percent), teachers (64 percent), salespeople (61 percent), business owners (61 percent), and housewives (57 percent).

Let’s break that list down to root issues that create busyness.

Lawyers, managers, salespeople, and business owners

  • Distorted work lives (caused by industrialism).
  • The pursuit of money.

Nurses, teachers, housewives, and pastors

  • Bearing the load of caring for others in a relationally-disconnected society created by distorted work lives and the pursuit of money.

The root causes listed are familiar to readers of this blog. Many posts here cover these root issues. Sadly, those tenacious roots grow deeper every year, but we hear little about them in our churches.

It’s not enough to say that we must focus more on God. That’s just adding another task to the problem. Instead, we Christians must start questioning the underlying root issues that cause this busyness.

While the study does not explain why Christians are so busy and distracted, Zigarelli described the problem among Christians as “a vicious cycle” prompted by cultural conformity.

“[I]t may be the case that (1) Christians are assimilating to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload, which leads to (2) God becoming more marginalized in Christians’ lives, which leads to (3) a deteriorating relationship with God, which leads to (4) Christians becoming even more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions about how to live, which leads to (5) more conformity to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload. And then the cycle begins again.”

I agree with Dr. Zigarelli’s analysis. First, we are caught in a vicious cycle of busyness. Second, the implied cure is to no longer conform to the culture.

What must that non-conformity look like?

I suggest that we Christians must

  • Revitalize and rebuild local economies that counter globalism’s trend toward marginalization of communities and individuals
  • Discover alternative work lives that keep families (and communities) together during the day
  • Pursue simplicity by rejecting consumerism
  • Create alternative Christian communities that better conform to the Gospel’s standard of benevolence and more effectively shoulder the burden of caring for others
  • Reform our doctrinal emphases from head knowledge to the practical outworkings of the Faith
  • Stand by and encourage those who reject conformity to the prevailing culture rather than marginalizing them
  • Craft a new vision for living lives devoted to God first and to each other second.

Folks, these root issues penetrate deeply into the Western psyche. Busyness simply reflects the root. As Jesus notes of some demonic powers, only prayer and fasting will drive them out. And I believe some element of the demonic weaves through these roots.

None of this will be easy. It means revisioning all aspects of how we live our lives. Too many of us think how we live now is the only way it can be. But that’s a lie. We’ve got to stop believing that lie and start believing that God can change things if we repent and start asking hard questions that demand even harsher answers.

See these posts for more:

So Why Does It Matter?


This week, we’ve looked at the problem of the frantic, overscheduled, overworked lives we Americans face (“When the Truth Strikes Out” and “It’s Never Enough Until Your Heart Stops Beating“). I’ve blogged on this issue many times in the past (see the end of this post for related posts), but I don’t see it getting any better. If anything, the Church and parachurch organizations act as if nothing has changed. Yet we now…

…spend more time away from home performing our jobs.

…spend record amounts of time commuting or shuttling our kids here and there.

…have more time-pressed, dual-income families than ever before.

…work harder for less money, often necessitating multiple jobs.

…have no time for social groups that help maintain the fabric of our society.

…feel more guilty than ever that we can’t mirror the perfect family that well-meaning Christians tell us we must be.

Why should any of this matter, though? Why should Christians address the underlying causes for these problems?

As someone keenly aware of the state of disciplemaking in this country, I believe it matters because all these things work to undermine the Great Commission. Dude, it's like moving! Whoa!I believe these trends and changes in our society actively work against the Gospel.

I don’t know how far we must sink before Christian leaders in America wake up to the fact that most of their charges are one exhale away from spiritual death. Our collective hypnosis must end.

With so many distractions and so much rushing to and fro, how can any of us expect to develop a truly deep walk with Christ? When dad spends twelve hours a day away from home, how can he be expected to be a true spiritual leader in his home? By the time he eats dinner and tosses a ball with Junior for fifteen minutes, the day’s over. The weekend consists of doing all the things that didn’t get done during the weeknights. Sometimes prayer goes out the window. Bible study? Forget about it. Developing a rich community of faith with others? How? Who has the time?

Folks, these are serious problems that strike at the very health and mission of Christ’s Church in this country. Yes, many of them are of our own making from long past, but now they’re entrenched in our culture, and like ticks embedded in the skin, they’re not easy to remove without an infection resulting.

Jan at The View From Her asked why Christians are demanding more and more Christian movies and TV shows. Isn’t it all just preaching to the choir?

That question fits here because I feel that our discipleship in this country is so poor we’re failing to create disciples who can stand on their own two spiritual feet. They need constant propping up in order to walk the path of Christ. So instead of developing an inner life filled with the Spirit, they surround themselves with pleasant Christian messages they believe will strengthen them.

Unfortunately, that misguided belief resembles going into battle clad in pillows rather than armor. Yet in a frenzied environment packed to the gills with this activity and that, we flop to the couch with nothing left and turn on our sweet little Christian movie before we doze off.

Folks, it ain’t workin’.

The American Church won’t shake the censers of heaven with our prayers if we toss off prayer between bites of doughnut and sips of coffee listening to Christian radio during morning rush hour. We’re not going to build strong communities if we pull in from work at 7 PM, change clothes, and wolf down dinner, only to realize it’s 8 PM already and we missed yet another church-related event. Delusional people think they can pull that off.

Perhaps that’s our problem: we’ve lost touch with reality. Or perhaps we’ve got too much reality and have lost touch with the Lord, instead. Either way, we’re in trouble if we blithely soldier on without question.

Call your pastor up some night and ask him about this. Ask him what he thinks all this bustle and overwork might be doing to his flock. Then ask why it is that no one questions it all.

If all of us do this, then some outside chance exists that some leaders will start thinking beyond the rathole issues that distract us from true discipleship. Perhaps then we’ll see important Christian voices confronting these problems.

Previous posts on these issues: