Friday, March 8, 2013

Margin- Chapter 2

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 2: "The Pain of Progress"

- He pointed out that our society has many of the things previous generations would have wished for, yet our society has still not found happiness.  In the chapter, he shows that problems, and not just blessings have come with progress.

- I think he is right in saying we trust progress more than we realize.  We quickly put our faith in a new product because it has advantages over the old, but we often don't take into account the potential accompanying problems.

- His list of the problems that we have in America, probably the most developed nation in the world, was sobering.  As he later points out, we have made advances in the wrong things and more important things have been shoved aside.

- "The American definition of happiness is, after all, 'more than I have now.'" (Page 26) Isn't that so true?  If happiness depended on things, there would be a clear "plateau."  Those below the plateau would be unhappy, those above would be happy.  We see that is not the case.

- Another quote I liked: "Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity." (Page 27) This is true in our families, churches, workplaces, etc.

- Some of you alluded to the fact that it is almost looked at as spiritual in some circles if we are super busy.  I thought of that when I read these well thought-out questions: "Is God now pro-exhaustion?  Doesn't He lead people beside the still waters anymore?" (Page 27)

- To me, one of the most helpful lessons from the chapter is when he showed that the things our society has progressed in care little, if anything, about our transcendent needs (spiritual, emotional, social).  Instead, the progress areas relate to money, technology and education.

- He challenged people to make progress subservient to relationships (with God, self, and others) and to not consider something progress if we advanced in money, technology or education to the detriment of those relationships. 

- Overall, I had trouble following his thought all through the chapter.  He said some good things, but I had trouble seeing where it was going.  It was better when skimming it again to write this post.  I think this is a good summary of the chapter's thrust: "While the progress we boast of is found within the material and cognitive environments, most of the pain we suffer is found within the social, emotional, and spiritual."  (Page 31)

- I agree with him that our society tries to solve its problems by throwing more money at it, or providing further education.  Need more reading to convince you?  (Ok, so it is a Wikipedia link.  Just because it is on Wikipedia doesn't mean that everything is a lie!)

- My understanding of the last section of the chapter: true progress comes as individuals become more like Christ, thus effecting change in their homes, churches, companies, and communities.

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 1
Discussion on Chapter 3


  1. The author effectively and soberly manifested the problems associated with progress. Here are some of the highlighted portions from my reading:

    "For every problem that has a solution, there is a solution that brings another problem." (pg.22) This is definitely a paradox of life today. It reminds me a lot of modern prescription drugs.... sometimes the side-effects are worse than the original problem.

    "Most of us trust the idea of progress more than we realize." (pg.23) I believe this same thought process is being applied to ministry. The new methods, music, translations, etc. has become the expected. That which is traditional is considered to be hazardous to progress in the church. Even many Independent Baptists will embrace these forms of "progress" without much thought as to whether it is biblical or if it will have negative results in the end.

    "those cultures with the most progress are the same as those with the least margin.....Margin has been stolen away, and progress was the thief. If we want margin back, we will first have to do something about progress." (pg.25) While I will agree with the statement he made, I would like to see the author be more specific on what progresses he believes should be kept and which ones done away with or restricted. For example, the progress of modern medicine verses the witchdoctor jungle medicine voodoo should not be forfeited. But, as in the first quote I mentioned, this progress has brought about the problem of high health costs due to the technology, research, and advancements in medicine, making health-care unaffordable for many in America. Obama's solution to this problem has created an even bigger problem.... now those that once could afford health-care cannot due to their increased costs to cover those who previously could not afford it. I am curious if the author will give some suggested guidelines as to acquiring an appropriate balance on progress.

    "Axiom #3: All humans have physical, mental, emotional, and financial limits that are relatively fixed." (pg.26) The idea of limits is an important reminder, which I appreciated. It is so easy to make an extra purchase or take on an extra responsibility without counting the cost and asking ourselves if we can afford it. This does not rule out faith but can help to rule out foolishness.

  2. "We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has the time to listen, let alone love. Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions." (pg.27) Anyone else relate with this one? Also, consider the implications of this on ministry. In order to meet the "progress" of large numbers of conversions or crowds, we have "say a quick sinner's prayer," purpose driven churches, and unnecessary building projects in ministries (gymnasiums, skate parks, etc.). Ministries that have grown to the mega-size often lose the interest of the individuals. My dad goes to a huge church. He is involved in the bus ministry (well, they drive vans now, instead of buses), is having serious spiritual issues, yet he continues in that ministry and, until recently, was completely unnoticed by one of the pastors.

    "Is God now pro-exhaustion? Doesn’t He lead people beside the still waters anymore?" (pg.27) Not on a permanent basis, but I think a disclaimer is important here. When Christ led His disciples a part for them to rest, that was when they ended up providing a catering service and fed thousands of people... when they were already tired. Temporary exhaustion is not a bad thing. The problem is that we are in more of a perpetual state of exhaustion, which is the author's point.

    "We are addicted, and progress knows it. We now do its bidding. Before we can subjugate progress, we must first break the addiction. As we subjugate progress, we first make it subservient to our greater goals and needs, especially relationships." (pg.29) - Thought this was really good. Who would have thought of progress as an addiction?

    "margin exists for relationship." (pg.30) - I can personally attest to the seasons when I am too busy, relationships are what suffer. Very good statement.

    The author already has me wanting to get to the proposed solutions but we have more "Pain" to go through in the next three chapters.

  3. Interesting chapter, interesting morning.

    I forgot my laptop this morning (typing this on another computer in a different office) and I was a little frustrated at myself. I knew that I wasn't going to get anything done today because of that. Then I read this chapter and, well, I think you get the point. Technology isn't the answer. Reminded me of how many times I have turned to a computer, or a new software, or a productivity method to make things better. I have accomplished a lot this morning with just a pen and paper. I mean, who knew?!

    Having said that, this chapter encouraged me in his focus on finding the answer in God. I'm sure I don't agree with everything he believes about the Bible, but I'm thankful that he is pointing us to Christ as the answer for busyness.

    The best phrase for me was "People are important beyond description." I wouldn't mind changing that for an application - Souls are more important beyond description. That helps me focus my priority for the day - God placed me here today for souls.

    Just a little praise, got to lead my neighbor to the Lord last night after praying for him for 5 years!
    And Bro Gross, way to go on taking the conversation political on chapter 2! I love it.

    1. Bro. Alan,

      PRAISE THE LORD about the salvation of your neighbor!

      I remember that same technology frustration when we filled in for Nathan & Becky Jones in Rankin for 5 months and suddenly my iPhone no longer worked and our internet was about the speed of dial up and we were restricted to 3GB of bandwidth per month. As we "adapted" to these steps "back" in progress we found more margin of time to spend with the girls, the ministry, etc. coming in.

  4. There are some really good thoughts in this chapter. Particularly giving definition to our culture's understanding of progress. Can anyone say MATERIALISM? A lot of modern "progress" has an element of God's design in it (i.e. medicine, "discovery" of energy sources, etc.); however, because much of the foundation of these discoveries was not based upon a pursuit of God, our society has missed the full intent and blessing of these discoveries. The thirst for knowledge and power apart from submission to and faith in God will never yield peaceable fruit. Thankfully, we as believers can individually take advantage of "progress" and personally experience the blessings God intended.

    On another note, so far his mentioning of spiritual matters appears vague and general in nature. I wonder what kind of "Christian" the author is.

    I am also looking forward to getting to the "solution" side of his argument.

    Thanks for your thoughts, guys.

  5. Sounds like we keep hitting the same point about the most advanced cultures having the smallest amount of margin. I remember this being very obvious during a 2-week missions trip to Zambia, Africa 10 years ago where we could sit down with people for 45 to 90 minutes at a time and share the plan of salvation with them and they had the time to sit and listen. I remember being amazed that they had the time, but at the same time thankful that they had the time and that many of them were convinced by the Holy Spirit during that time of their need of a Savior and trusted Christ and were added to the church and are still there faithfully 10 years later.

    Along the lines of the statement regarding is God pro-exhaustion, Psalm 46:10 immediately came to mind, "Be still, and know that I am God...." Often times has the Holy Spirit reminded me of this verse in my life and the need to just sit still and be patient long enough to see HIM work!

    "Progress' biggest failure has been it's inability to nurture and protect right relationships" (pg. 29) As I read this statement, I couldn't help but think about how much of our culture today is more concerned about their virtual relationships in the form of their Facebook or Twitter "status" and meanwhile those human relationships they should be most devoted to are left to crumble from lack of attention. Truly, these social media advances are a sign of "progress" in that information can be transmitted almost immediately to a large group of people, but this progress has come with a price. I recently read a statistic that if someone is "unfriended" on Facebook, there is an 80+% chance that they will rarely to never speak to that person in real life again. What a glaring reminder of the lack of balance when virtual relationships replace human relationships.

    So far, another good chapter, and looking forward to what's ahead!