Worship Makes You Happy; TV Does Not

Sam Rainer

April 11, 2008

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a study of 4,000 Americans by academics Daniel Kahneman, Alan Krueger, David Schkade, Norbert Schwarz, and Arthur Stone. The survey focused on the reasons why the sharp rise in our standard of living in recent decades has not resulted in a corresponding rise in levels of happiness among people when compared to earlier generations.

The article postulates why this stagnant state may exist among Americans:

The standout cluster was what the authors label “engaging leisure and spiritual activities,” things like visiting friends, exercising, attending church, listening to music, fishing, reading a book, sitting in a cafe or going to a party. When we spend time on our favorite of these activities, we’re typically happy, engrossed and not especially stressed.

The obvious implication: If we devote more time to these activities, maybe we would be more satisfied with our lives. Yet the evidence suggests we’ve missed a huge chance to do just that — which may help explain why Americans are little or no happier than they were four decades ago.

Over that stretch, men reduced the amount of time they spent working. Meanwhile, women — as a group — spent more time earning income, reflecting their increased work-force participation. But this increased time at the office was more than offset by a drop in time devoted to mundane chores.

In other words, both men and women had the chance to lavish more time on “engaging leisure and spiritual activities.” But in fact, time spent on these activities has actually declined over the past four decades.

Instead, there’s been a significant increase in the hours devoted to what the authors call “neutral downtime,” which is mostly watching television. Women now spend 15% of their waking hours staring at the tube, while men devote 17%.

My hope is that worship isn’t “neutral downtime” for those attending church. While it’s certainly not definitive, this study supports the notion that we should be actively engaged in worship, not just being entertained. And while I believe that video clips and the Internet can be appropriately incorporated into a worship experience, how far is too far? What’s your take?

5 comments on “Worship Makes You Happy; TV Does Not”

  1. rainerfamily says:

    What do you think about satellite campuses? Creative evangelism or slippery slope? If 3 or more gather together & pop in a Sam Rainer III sermon on their couches on tuesday night, is that any different from satellite campuses? or is it just a quicker way to spread the gospel & plant churches? sorry – i only have questions! 🙂

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    rf – Considering the fact that another Rainer championed the satellite campus way back in the late 80s/early 90s, I’m reticent to say it’s a slippery slope. And I think that you were a member of that church at the time…mmmmmm…

    And a group of people sitting on couches listening to my sermons on a Tuesday night is so far-fetched that I cannot speak to the effect.

    And what’s the deal with all the questions!? …it’s like you’re a missionary trying to understand context or something…

    Actually, we’re proud of you, Cousin. And we’ll be praying as you enter into this next chapter. Keep fighting the good fight!

  3. rainerfamily says:

    thanks freakazoid! i’m wrestling with some of those issues is why all the questions. the beauty of that ‘other rainer’s’ satellite where we were members was that it became its own church. that’s awesome. my only question/hangup/uneasiness with tv churches is I just wonder, “why not plant a church?” even if you use tv for a year, or 2, ultimately handing the reigns over to another senior pastor who is in better position to shepherd his people because he is among them.

    that’s all I’m wondering. in the meantime, i’m grateful for the satellite/tv churches because they are at least multiplying & sowing more seed – if it is between that in a tv format and keeping it within the church walls, obviously, i have zero problems with that. i just like to categorize everything neatly – & not to be far-fetched, but there are college folks in our town that will tell you they get all the “church” they need online, etc., so I was truly curious if there is a danger or slippery slope in the aspect that technology can sometimes be people’s excuse, & at other times an incredible catalyst.

    just finished your “different kind of community” article on big existence…can’t wait for the book!

    didn’t mean to pickle you with questions, just trying to pick that brain as I wrestle through newer issues, especially since I’m going to a very techno-savvy land!

  4. Sam Rainer says:

    rf – It takes a Rainerfreak to know a Rainerfreak…

    I’m a huge fan of the church utilizing technology for the spread of the gospel – it’s imperative to best reach the “techno-savvy” cultures.

    There are churches that are so rapidly multiplying and are crunched for space that the only option is a satellite campus with a live feed on a screen. Given the amount of dying churches in our world, I praise God for their growth.

    But I do not think that Internet church is the ideal scenario for a body of believers. While online communities exist, accountability, worship, and discipleship are best accomplished with a physical, visible group of believers.

    That being said, those that try to get all their “church” from the radio, TV, or computer will always exist, but it does not negate the technology itself. Even without the Internet, we know from history that people will invent all sorts of excuses for neglecting the fellowship.

  5. David Rainer says:

    Now that was very helpful! See – I ask questions to help come to conclusions I haven’t been able to draw yet, & that, from one Rainer freak to another, was very insightful in forming my conclusion, to tie some loose ends together. So for that I thank you & demote you from freak status!

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