A Decline in Christian Intentionality
A quick Google search seeking a definition of the word “intentionality” gives you the following result: “the fact of being deliberate or purposive.”1 To think of an intentional person, you might envision a superstar athlete. The individual goes to the gym relentlessly seeking to gain more strength in his muscles, a greater amount of speed in his legs, and a higher degree of overall physical stamina as well as durability. You can see the sweat dripping from their face as they work on their craft in order to become more proficient for gameday. Not just sweat, but the pain of strenuous physical exercise is also evident plus the blood dripping on the floor from time to time is evidence of the athlete’s intentional work. He will not relent, let up, stop, or quit till he has achieved his intended purpose.
Our culture praises such individuals for their work ethic setting their mind on a goal until it is achieved. No doubt, a high-motor for working hard driven by intentionally locking onto a goal is commendable. Yet, in many Christian circles today, we see a lack of intentionality in the life of the believer being praised. I don’t mean this reality as an “out there” expression where I am only critiquing issues within evangelicalism. I mean, in my own life, in your life, in all of our lives, it can be something we struggle with at various points. Many of us are tempted to spend time on activities that do not matter in the end. I am a firm believer in the good use of recreation with a healthy perspective in moderation to be recharged and refreshed for service to Christ. However, I see a need to renew the Christian doctrine of intentionality. We need to be focused on using every minute as a faithful steward for Christ’s sake.
Looking At The Problem
Some statistics are helpful for us to begin to see the overall issue within our society as to intentionality. The average video gamer spends roughly 8 hours and 27 minutes a week playing games.2 That number breaks down to approximately 439.4 hours a year. Suppose that individual plays video games for 60 years, that totals to about 26,364 hours in their life, or over 3 years. Based on current statistics, the average individual will spend just 1 year and 10 months of their life on YouTube, 1 year and 7 months on Facebook, 1 year and 2 months on Snapchat, 8 months on Instagram, and 18 days on Twiter.3 If you kept up with the math, that is over 5-years of life just on social media. On top of all these areas, the average person spends over 78,000 hours watching television during their life, which is just a little under 9-years. Now, taking all of these statistics together, if you are simply an average person, a normal social media consumer, and a typical gamer, that all comes to 17-years.
My point is not to say that we cannot watch some television or spend time on social media. Rather, I am seeking to ask the question as to whether or not spending 17-hours of our lives on these areas is the best investment? I am glad faithful Christians are involved in social media spaces as publishers, but let’s be honest, far too many of us spend way more time consuming unbeneficial posts instead of posting edifying content ourselves and reading solid content from others. Plus, we are not even discussing the vulgar or obscene content in movies that many Christians have become accustomed to putting themselves in front of in the name of “entertainment.” However, for even mentioning the fact believers should not be spending time watching R-rated movies with sexual content and obscene language, some will consider me a legalist. Which brings me to my main point here, it is not just that we have lost focus on intentionality, it is that to be someone who considers these areas with a definite purpose is to be counted as legalistic in many groups. I am on social media, I love watching March Madness and college football, my point is not to say these realms cannot be used in a healthy manner. Yet, I do want us all to think deeply to see if we are using them rightly. How would a biblical theology of intentionality factor into our lives?
Understanding The Solution
Foundationally, the Apostle Paul says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).” This text truly lays a central piece for us to consider, the entirety of our life is to be focused on God’s glory. Therefore, whenever we work, it should not be for prideful advancement, but to use the gifts God has given us for His glory according to the Scripture. As it pertains to rest and entertainment, we should enjoy these as good gifts from God, using them to refresh ourselves. There is no “thou shalt not spend more than 5-minutes per day on social media” command in the Bible. However, the question to ask yourself, is the time you are spending on social media being used to glorify God, and is the amount of time consistent with the biblical priority that realm should have in your life? For some, they will come to the conclusion they only need to spend a few minutes a day on social media primarily focused on posting. Others will have specific responsibilities necessitating they spend more time on these platforms. All of us, should seek to steward this realm faithfully according to Scripture as those who will give an account to Christ one day.
When thinking about entertainment, television consumption, movie watching, and such, we find a very good application for us to make from Philippians 4:8. This text says:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” -Philippians 4:8
Each of us should ask the question to see whether or not the entertainment we consume is causing us to think about that which is good and commendable, or those things which are sinful and evil? It is not just that we do not want to spend too much time on entertainment, it is also that the entertainment we consume should be promoting that which is good in us. That reality is why I do not believe Christians should be watching movies and television shows which obscenely promote sinfully sensual content . . . that is not guiding you to think upon that which is good. I am not saying we cannot watch secular television shows and such, but what I am saying is that we should seek to see if the entertainment we consume is edifying.
A final point I want to make in this article for overall intentionality in life comes from what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” -1 Corinthians 9:24-27
This text is crystal clear as to Paul’s desire to live with discipline, not running aimlessly, but intentionally for the glory of Christ. That goal should be our own as we go throughout this life. Whatever the realm or sphere of life, we should strive to be focused on using the gifts God has given to us for His glory. I am not saying that as one who is perfect, nor as an individual who has figured it all out, but as one seeking to grow in these realms. I pray you were prompted by the consideration of these texts to be spurred on in this area as well!
4 Note: The numbers in this article are meant to be close approximations, for example, I didn’t factor leap years into my calculations.