Are we really living in a society that is characterized by information overload? What exactly is information overload? What impact does it have in our daily lives? Does this also apply to us in the assemblies? What is the godly response?
These and many more similar questions have been running through my mind a lot. I believe that the way we deal with this individually and collectively will in large part determine how relevant our ministry will be in this generation.
Defining the term
I write this post acknowledging that I have more questions tha n answers. It will probably be one of those articles that I will look back on in 10 years and wonder what I was thinking at the time! The fear that I have is that we will wait to talk about it until it is well defined.
This usually means having society define it for us and pressing us into its mold and practice. This is one area where I believe we need to stand out as true believers by limiting our information intake to that which is in keeping with our God-given purpose on this earth.
I recently was reading a book by a Christian author who touched on the danger of “educating beyond obedience”. I believe we are often guilty of this. We don’t adjust our giving of information to the level of people’s ability to apply it to their lives. Our first response to people struggling with application is to give them more information. I believe that a very high percentage of our preaching falls on deaf ears because people cannot connect it with their personal need and therefore discard it as “information overload”.
Information accessible in seconds
I am of the opinion that easy access of information is one of the important distinctives of this generation. That information which a preacher of the previous generation spent hours researching is accessible in seconds to anyone with a modern phone in their pocket.
If a preacher does not establish early on on his presentation that he will be delivering “relevant” information, he will simply be tuned out as someone contributing to the burden of “information overload”. It is not enough for the preacher to be convinced that his message is relevant, for it to be received it must be perceived to be relevant by the listener.
It is discouraging to me as a speaker when people in the audience convey by their body language that the message that I have spent hours preparing is being considered “information overload”. Yet, if I were to be honest, when I am the listener I myself often exert more effort trying to make it look like I am engaged than actually taking in the message in a helpful way. (This helps me justify my view that it is not ALL the speaker’s fault.)
I think we often come to the meetings with more on our minds already than we can properly handle. Unless we find some way to “delete” or “minimize” the information taking up our memory and our “screens”, we will be unable to process more information no matter how necessary and relevant.
A unique generation
Whether we like it or not, this generation is very different from any previous generation. I believe that the enemy of our souls is using the information overload to numb the mind so that he will be able to gain global control. How can we effectively stand against his strategy in the power of the Lord?
It seems to me that today’s generation is strongly reacting to what they see as knowledge as an end in itself in the assembly. They don’t feel the need for more knowledge and therefore are not as committed to the preaching/teaching meetings as we would like them to be. I am convinced that many of them are not despising knowledge but are crying out for help in applying the knowledge they already have and are not willing to buy into a sterile knowledge-based fellowship.
Many are overwhelmed with life, in part because of information overload, and are not interested in being overwhelmed further with more information. They need to be given the knowledge necessary for godly living along with the support and fellowship essential to apply the knowledge in everyday living. Come to think of it, this is what we all need.
Preach for application
James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” What are we communicating when we are aware that we are not applying the Word that we already know but keep adding more knowledge without bothering to make application? Are we not perpetrating knowledge as an end in itself? James says that we deceive ourselves when we do that. I would argue that it is that sterile knowledge that Paul tells us leads to pride. To the extent that this is a description of our knowledge, we should all join today’s generation in rejecting it.
In this day of “information overload” it is vitally important that the information that we contribute is living, powerful, applicable, relational and true.
The way that we teach needs to consider what is the most effective way to lead people into a living relationship and fellowship with the Person we are presenting. It must be very evident that we are presenting more than sterile information or we will not be listened to very long.
As I mentioned earlier, I have more questions than answers. I would love to hear some of your perspectives. We need each other in discerning the times and clearly presenting God’s response to the reality that we live with daily.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other author or an official position of the assemblyHUB team.