DiscipleShift Part 1: The Choice to Consume, Create, or Cultivate

I recently sat down with a 20-something who asked for some advice on how to become more productive in serving the Lord. He wanted to think more deeply and live more fully, and he wondered what he could start doing to cultivate the kind of life that would bear fruit for God’s kingdom in future decades.

Reflecting on my 20s, one answer came to mind. Every day, in the free time we have available, we have the choice to consume something, to create something, or to cultivate something. The pressures of this current cultural moment push us to consume, but the need of the day is for more people to create or cultivate.

Choice Before You

At the end of a long day at work, you’re greeted with an array of options. In that moment, the easiest choice is to consume. You watch a few episodes of your favorite show on Netflix, or you kill time by killing bad guys on a video game, or you sit back and cheer for your favorite sports team. There’s nothing wrong with any of these recreational activities. We need time off from pursuing productivity and efficiency. We’re human beings, not machines.

But I think the greater temptation in our day is that we move too easily between the machine-like efficiency of the workplace to the machine-like consumption of entertainment. Over time, we develop the idea that passive consumption is what we work for and live for.

Surely we were made for more than powering through the work week so we can spend hours binge watching TV or gaming on the weekends! God has built into us a rhythm of work and rest, yes, but it is a fallacy to believe that resting is always and only consumptivein nature. Restful activity can also be spent in cultivating and creating.

Consuming, Cultivating, or Creating

Here are the differences I have in mind:

  • Consuming: the passive reception of entertainment. As consumers, we spend time entertaining ourselves through television shows, movies, video games, and so on. These activities demand little of us.
  • Cultivating: the intentional development of something. As cultivators, we engage in something that makes a demand of us. It can be the development of the mind through reading and study, or cultivating of a skill or hobby, or restoring a car, or playing a musical instrument, or working in the garden. These activities require mental or physical exertion as we make something of the world we’ve been given. In turn, the activities develop us.
  • Creating: the invention of something that did not exist before. As creators, we leave something behind for others to enjoy and benefit from. We might compose a piece of music, write a poem or story or article, or paint a portrait.

We live in a culture that drives us toward consumption, not creation or cultivation. The result is we assume creating is work and consuming is rest. We assume that anything that demands something of us must be tiresome and strenuous. And so, in our free time, we naturally gravitate toward the activities that are easiest and most immediately gratifying. We choose distraction over development.

Enjoying the Creative and Cultivating Aspects of Life

We need a generation of young people to resist that tendency and to see through that fallacy. We are humans, not robots. We can train ourselves to enjoy the creative and cultivating aspects of life, even if they require something of us.

We can enjoy cooking as much as we enjoy the meal. We can enjoy the day’s yard work as much as we enjoy sitting on the patio on a summer evening with the smell of freshly cut grass in the air. We can enjoy planting flowers as much as we enjoy admiring them. We can enjoy writing songs as much as we enjoy singing them.

Finding joy in creating and cultivating doesn’t come naturally in a society that presses us to consume, consume, consume. The only way to escape the consumption trap is to spend your free time by choosing, again and again and again, to create or cultivate something rather than just consume.

Be Intentional

In The Tech-Wise FamilyAndy Crouch describes how he sets up the furniture in his home to emphasize activities that lead toward culture-making instead of consumption. I love the intentionality behind that practice.

Now, unlike Andy, my family has a television in our living room, and we watch it. Corina and I have favorite shows. I enjoy playing games on my phone with my son. My daughter and I like to watch classic TV together. I am not against passive consumption. Entertainment can be part of a well-balanced life. All of these activities have their place.

But we need a strong dose of intentionality with how we spend our free time. How often are you cultivating or creating something? The trick is to choose cultivation or creation so often that you begin to prefer to create something rather than consume something. Once you reach that point, you’ve arrived at a place where you’re unlikely to fall into the same consumptive patterns as everybody else.

You face a choice every day, week, month, and year. To create, to cultivate, or to consume. If Christians will regularly choose the former over the latter, we’ll stand out in a world that knows only the immediate gratification of consumption. And we’ll display for the world the joy of fulfilling humanity’s purpose of cultivation, as we reflect the image of the One who made us.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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