iFaith: A Conversation with Dan Darling
Today, I'm glad to welcome Dan Darling, author of iFaith: Connecting With God in the 21st Century (New Hope Publishers, 2011). Dan is senior pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. iFaith is a brief, pastoral book on living as Christians in the 21st century.
Trevin Wax: Dan, in the first chapter of iFaith, "A History of Waiting," you flesh out a theology of waiting on the Lord. Is impatience a particular challenge we face as we live in a fast-paced, connected age?
Dan Darling: Yes. I think waiting is our biggest challenge. Most of us, especially those who live in the “connected generation” (perhaps 45 and under) have grown up in the technological revolution. We have everything at the tip of our fingers and we can have it right now.
If you have a question, you Google it. If you want something to eat, you microwave it and in 2 minutes you’re hunger is satisfied. If you are lost, you’re GPS gets you back on the road. And everything is increasingly faster. Faster downloads. More access. No more waiting.
And yet, we worship a God who delights in making His children wait. If you look at the lives of all the major Bible characters, you’ll find that God made all of them wait.
- David was anointed king as a teen, but it was many years before he assumed the throne.
- Joseph was given a vision of leadership, but endured much waiting and trial before that was fulfilled in his life.
- Moses had a passion to rescue his people, but spent 40 years on the backside of the desert. On and on it goes.
I experienced this in my own life as we were forced to wait for a number of important developments. I realized that waiting is the “DNA” of faith. It is in God’s waiting room where He builds in us a richer faith in His goodness.
“Like many Christians I’ve often viewed spirituality as a way to refuel, like a thirsty gas tank after a day on the interstate. Go to church, get fired up, and hope it lasts until Tuesday.”
This is a really deficient view of our spiritual life in Christ, isn’t it?
Dan Darling: It really is. Jesus gave us a powerful invitation to “abide” in John 15. He uses the example of a vine and branches, which for most of us means nothing. So I used Jesus’ language and thought perhaps our generation might understand it better if we talked about being “plugged in.”
A few years ago I took a mission’s trip to India. And if you’ve ever lived in a third-world country, you know that the power supply is spotty at best. Basically the power went out 4-5 times an hour and the generators would kick in. It made getting anything constructive done on the computer impossible.
Interestingly, it frustrated the Americans, but the Indians were okay with it. That example is very similar to how we view spirituality. Most of us, like the Indian people, are used to a spirituality that is sort of in and out, patch-work power. But then we wonder why not much of significance takes place, why there are few victories. We need to stop looking at Jesus as a place to refuel, but as a Presence, through the Holy Spirit. His invitation is to stay “plugged in.”
Trevin Wax: People that see the title of your book, iFaith, might assume you are trying to make Christianity more relevant for a wired generation. But you are doing more than that here. You are trying to apply the timeless truths of Christian teaching in a world where time flies.
Dan Darling: Yes, this is not a hip book an how to have a “cool” faith. Thought it’s a short book, I tried to use modern metaphors to call us back to basic Christian doctrines.
For instance, in my chapter on sin, I use the example of a Trojan horse on a computer system. Sin is really like a malicious computer virus, eating at our soul and ultimately destroying our connecting to God. We can’t stay “plugged in” if we’re living in sin. But the good news, as Christians, as that this connection can be immediately restored if we apply 1 John 1:9 and confess our sins, appropriating the grace purchased for us on the cross by Jesus.
Trevin Wax: I liked your image of praying in ALL CAPS. You make a funny point, but there's a serious truth there.
Dan Darling: ALL CAPS is the official venting language of the connected generation. If someone Tweets in ALL CAPS, they’re shouting. If you see a Facebook post in ALL CAPS, that person is really upset (or annoying). If you have the courage to read comments on news articles, you’ll find some of the highest level of vitriol was typed with the CAPS button engaged.
Sometimes we wish we could fire off an ALL CAPS message to God. Sort of let him know how upset we are with what He is or isn’t doing. I walk through Psalm 73 and Asaph’s raw lament at God. What I have found in this Psalm and in others is that it really is okay to vent to God, that He’s not afraid of our deepest questions. He’d rather we be venting at Him than not speaking to Him at all. Of course, we must always reverence him and, like Job, get ready to hear the answers we may not want to hear.
Trevin Wax: Dan, thanks for stopping by the blog and discussing your book, iFaith. (Kingdom People readers can download a sample chapter of Dan's book here.)