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: