Book Review: Tim Challies – “The Next Story”

Like many of us who are not true digital natives, Challies is a fully assimilated digital immigrant struggling to manage the limitless opportunities this new digital world provides.

Tim Challies - The Next Story

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I have read a lot about technology and social media. From Neil Postman to, more recently, Nicholas Carr to Marshall McLuhan’s seminal works, I’ve read a lot.

I have also been a user of social media for close to 20 years, stretching back to the early 90s and that wonderful forerunner of the Internet known as the BBS. I even do some consulting and speaking on the topics of technology and social media.

I mention all of this to make a point: I have read a lot about technology and have long embraced the technologies that Tim Challies writes about in “The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion” and I still learned a lot from this book.

Why? Because Challies is concerned with more than just how wonderful new technologies are (there are plenty of books that will tell you that), and he’s concerned about more than what effects – positive and negative – these technologies might have on the scope of human progress. He takes care to examine the effects that these technologies might be having on our souls as well.

Challies is well qualified to address the topic. As the sole content producer of a blog that registers over 15,000 hits per day, he is one of the most widely read and trusted voices in the Christian blogosphere. Add to this the fact that he is also an elder in his church and it gives him a unique perspective.

His analysis of current technologies and their effects is concise, his prescriptions for dealing with the implications of these technologies are well researched and wise. He speaks as one with authority on these matters because he is one with authority in these matters.

Citizens of the Digital World
The great strength of the book lies in the fact that Tim Challies is like so many of us who inhabit the same digital world: he’s excited about the prospects of new technologies while at the same time deeply aware of their potential to harm the health of our relationship with God and the human beings closest to us. Like many of us who are not true digital natives, Challies is a fully assimilated digital immigrant struggling to manage the limitless opportunities this new digital world provides.

“More and more of us are finding that we just can’t stop long enough to read. We can’t sustain our attention long enough to study,” he says, “Where prayer used to be the first activity of every day, we now begin our daily routine by checking e-mail. Where the Bible used to be a special book we read and studied, now it’s an e-book that competes with our voice mail, text messages, e-mails, and the ever-present lure of the Internet.”

He points out that we cannot blindly embrace every technological advance as “progress”, but neither can we simply shun and ignore them and pretend they don’t exist. Instead, we must be wise in using technology to advance the Kingdom of God and avoid uses that lead us in the opposite direction.

Technology, like every good gift, is a gift from God. And as we’re prone to do with God’s other good gifts, we can make an idol of this one as well. “The challenge for the Christian,” says Challies, “is to learn to use these media with all the opportunities they bring to speak and to tell of this God who speaks through us.”

Another great strength of the book is that it goes beyond mere analysis and calls you to action. In his epilogue Challies examines his own life and habits by the standards he has set in the book, relating his experiences of self-examination and the life changes he has made as a result of his findings.

Summary
“The Next Story” is not a beginner’s guide to digital technology, but it is also not written in a way that a newcomer to these technologies will find intimidating. There is enough here for both the newcomer and the veteran to make it a worthwhile read.

If you are a newcomer to digital technology and social media, I recommend this book to you as a great way to get up to speed on the digital world. Read it and use it to guide your navigation in this vast new place we call “cyberspace”. It will help you to steer clear of many of the mistakes we digital veterans have made along the way.

If you are a veteran of digital technology and social media, I recommend this book to you as a wake-up call to examine your use (and probable OVER-use) of these new technologies. Read it and ask yourself the tough questions that Tim Challies, a fellow traveler in this new world, has been asking himself.

Of course very few books about current technology can be timeless, but “The Next Story” will have a longer shelf life than most because it establishes biblical principles for living with and using technology for the glory of God.

If “The Next Story” has the same effect on you that it had on me, it will cause you repent of some of your technological habits, to refine many others, and to refocus your attention on the true goal of all that you do, both online and off – to bring glory to God.

Available at Amazon. Also for Kindle.

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