Habits in a Disruptive Culture

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We live in a disruptive culture.  

While we often do similar things from day to day, or from week to week, there is much that can throw us off our routines.  The normal cue has been interrupted by a phone call or a change in routine (a breakfast meeting) and suddenly I forget to do what normally do by habit (take pills with breakfast).  Interruptions are common in our lives.  Add to the ordinary interruptions, the fact that daily routines can change (sports schedules and work schedules) everyday, it is not hard to see how we live in a disruptive culture.  

Additional disruptions happen through various technologies.   We lose track of time when we play addictive games on Playstation.   We can interrupt our work on computer with endless searches on the rabbit trails of the internet.  These can be disruptive to our daily routines and work habits. 

We can add to the list.   What interests me is the effect of disruption on our lives.   Amid disruption we either just go with the flow (which means others set our daily agenda) or we have to make fresh decisions amid the disruptions (which means using our willpower which we have in limited supply).   Both increase our stress levels.  Both have us looking for an easy solution which usually means eating at a fast food restaurant, playing on our iphone, or watching television both of which are easy and provide just enough satisfaction to keep our minds at ease. 

Good daily habits are harder to maintain in a disruptive culture.  

This is certainly true when it comes to the practices of the Christian life.   The daily habit of prayer and scripture reading at the table changed as children began to participate in school sports.  The weekly habit of church attendance is changing with weekend sports tournaments, ski weekends, and breakout weekends away for a stressed couple. 

Yet good habits are essential for the good Kingdom orientated life.  

But what are these habits? When Richard Foster wrote the Celebration of Discipline, he named 12 practices of the Christian faith.   12 is a lot.  Especially when you consider that each of these practices have a number of habits attached to them.  For instance, under the discipline of Simplicity, he lists 10 practices that will encourage this discipline.   From a practical point of view we cannot focus on them all.  But I noticed that when as a church we had a budgeting workshop, a number of people said it helped them not just with the practice of budgeting but with the habits of giving, spending on clothing and gadgetry as well.  Working on one thing spilled over onto the other habits as well.   Work on exercise routines effects the habits of eating.  So the question is:  what are the “keystone habits”  (as named in the Power of Habits) that help build a Good Kingdom Orientated Life?  What are those key habits that change lifestyles for Kingdom good? 

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. The practice of an active engagement with Scripture (daily devotional or study) – because we live by the word of God.
  2. The practice of a biweekly celebration of communion in a small group because belonging to each other and being in Christ together are essential. 
  3. The practice of active service (as volunteer and/or monetary) in two Christian organizations (church being one, possibly Christian school, ARocha, College, CLAC, etc) because the institutional life of a community is important part of Kingdom life.
  4. The practice of hospitality with non Christians because we are to love our neighbours. 

What would change in the life of the church if we were promoting these practices?  Could we add just one additional practice for a person’s/ family’s unique circumstances (i.e. budgeting, attending AA)? 

What this doesn’t do is focus on worship attendance in a large group setting.  Perhaps this practice of Sunday morning worship is not as transformative as we have sometimes thought.  While its role is still important, perhaps the role is more supportive and not necessarily transformative.  (could this be different in a small church?).   Part of this might simply be that so much activity is now organized for the “weekend” – not Saturday.   To be part of such activity is to be gone for the weekend – leaving Sunday morning worship as disrupting the weekend plans. 

What it would do is focus our energies in a new way by engaging in keystone practices that encourage the new life in Christ.  

What do you think? 

And what if the main job of elders would be the encouragement of these practices?  Would this help develop the habits of our life together that would transform our common life and advance of the cause of the Kingdom of Christ?

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Neil, excellent article.   Your four points are great!   And I would suggest that an active daily engagement with scripture makes the huge difference.  Having done both random scripture selections, and a progressive bible reading - following chapters in sequence, that reading through the bible a chapter or two at a time is more effective.  It gets you to see things otherwise missed.  Reading as a family cannot replace reading personally and alone.   Reading alone should not replace reading together as a family, especially when you have children.   And a devotional book to accompany the bible reading is always a bonus, but should not replace actual discussion of the bible passage in the family setting. 

I know some families who spend fifteen minutes or a half-hour at night time before the young kids go to bed.   Others who spend time first thing in the morning - they get up fifteen minutes or half-hour earlier so they can fit it in.   It takes time and committment.   It cannot just be squeezed in.  It cannot be shortened up.  It is not as effective or rewarding if it only happens once in awhile or sporadically.   It needs to be consistent and deserves time, just like it takes time to eat a meal.  

This practice provides a foundation and a context for your other three points.  Without this, the other three things can still be done, but will lose their purpose.