The Refreshing Gift of Going Offline

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Longtime readers of my column here at The Gospel Coalition know that I usually take the month of July off from writing, in order to give more time to reading and reflection and to get ahead on other projects and responsibilities that come my way.

Last year’s break took place during a whirlwind of trials for our family, as my mother-in-law had taken ill in Romania, leading to our family being separated for several months. Life is quieter this year, with different challenges and responsibilities filling our time, even if we are still crawling out of the crater left by the impact of last year’s tragedy. But we are in this together, still holding on to the Lord and to each other, still ready and willing for the Spirit to work through us as He sees fit.

I’ve chosen this year to start my July break a little earlier than usual. Next month, I’ll be teaching a masters level class at Wheaton College, and I’ve been feverishly finishing up the course notes and lecture materials. Preparing for this class has thrust me back into certain rhythms—of reading and research and writing—that I remember well from my years as a PhD student. Corina has been by my side throughout this process, taking my underlines and scribbles from nearly 100 books and typing up hundreds of pages of notes for me to draw from during my preparation for the course. Still, there is more work to be done.

In order to give my best to the excellent LifeWay team that I have the privilege of overseeing, and in order to keep my focus on my primary calling as husband and father, I believe it’s best for me to take advantage of my normal July break from writing, and even to extend it a little.

In recent years, I’ve come to see the value of scheduling regular seasons of time to be offline. The world of social media changes us in ways that we don’t notice. Events we once would experience just as they were now shift into pictures we can broadcast and share, altering our ability to encounter the world in an unmediated way. Twitter and Facebook have a culture and logic of their own, leading us to confuse “tweeting” about something with “advocacy” for a cause, when in reality, we’re often awash in signals of self-righteousness, and blissfully (or angrily) unaware. In recent months I’ve chosen to be less active online on Saturdays and Sundays in order to give more focus to my family and to my church. I don’t regret that move, and I recommend it for others.

When August arrives, I will be glad to start writing here again and to share some of the insights I’ve learned. Even with the extra work, I’ve enjoyed jumping back into the academic world, both through getting the word out about my new book and preparing for this course at Wheaton. It’s one thing to study for a course you’re taking and another to study for a course you’re teaching! The good news is that this exercise has given me more insight into the church and our culture—ideas I look forward to sharing with you when I return.

Until then, I hope you’ll consider reading Eschatological Discipleship, a more demanding book than the others I’ve written, but one that I hope will stir up some good reflection and insight as you read and ponder. As always, thank you for reading my work and praying for my heart.

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