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For quite a few years the ability to multitask has been viewed as very positive.

In contemporary culture, with media saturation and an abundance of obligations, some might even view multitasking as a virtue, especially for the busy leader. However, the evidence seems to imply that the human brain is not wired for such mental division; one need only be aware of the many stories of driving a vehicle while talking on a mobile phone. Our brains are wired for 'selective attention' and can focus on only one thing at a time. That innate ability has helped humans survive in a world buzzing with visual and auditory stimulation. But we keep trying to push the limits with multitasking, sometimes with tragic consequences. Drivers talking on cellphones, for example, are four times as likely to get into traffic accidents as those who aren't.i How is the church to respond to this modern epidemic? More specifically, how is the church leader to respond? The answer to such questions can begin by understanding the Scriptural significance of the Sabbath. One major theme throughout the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the necessity of Sabbath rest. Firstly, the Sabbath was demonstrated by God during His creation and when an individual observes this day of rest, he is imitating the pattern of God. Secondly, Sabbath rest sets aside a time for the follower of God to ponder and prosper in all of Gods accomplishments. Thirdly, Sabbath rest is an indirect foreshadowing of the ultimate salvation that God will accomplish. Just as He delivered the Israelites from Egypt through Moses, He will also deliver His followers from sin at the end of the age through Christ. ii In this regard, the writer of Hebrews firmly states, So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered Gods rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that restiii Finally, the Sabbath includes the practice of remembering that God sets apart His people and in Him they find true rest. Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.iv

In light of the Scriptural idea of the Sabbath, how should ministry leaders, and those with whom and for whom they minister, react to modern multitasking? The Sabbath makes it abundantly clear that when a believer is so preoccupied, or distracted, with his tasks and obligations that he forgets to rest on a normal basis and regularly remember the God who replenishes and sanctifies, he is in effect disobeying Scripture, and thus God Himself. Too many local churches expect their pastors to do everything, which results in pastors accomplishing nothing. Not only will this damage the ministries of the church, but it has serious consequences for the ministry leader. Two life-changing principles can be gleaned from the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. A man with two sons grants the request to his youngest to receive his inheritance. The younger son then sets out only to waste what his father gave him. The son, in shame, decides to return home and when the father sees him in the distance, he runs toward his son, embraces him, and celebrates. The first principle here is this: Many ministers, and all believers, waste what God has so graciously given. He has given His rest, peace, comfort, joy, salvation, and sanctification, among others. Too often, though, believers get distracted with the world and her diversions that they waste what God has promised. The story continues in Luke 15:29, with the older brother finding out about the feast his father gave for the return of the younger brother. When the older brother heard of this, He was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.v The second principle is found here, in that many Christian leaders grow old doing the work of the Father that they neglect the Father of the work. Therefore, not only must ministers return to celebrating the promises of God, one of which is rest, they must also protect their schedules and obligations by focusing their selective attention

on the Father, and avoid getting too distracted in His work that they neglect Him. Not only will these result in a healthy minister, they will result in healthy followers who will learn from that minister. The issue of multitasking does not end here. Secular research is showing the detrimental effects of multitasking and what it looks like for learners. Leo Widrich explores researcher Zhen Wangs conclusion that, for many, multitasking can result in feelings of satisfaction and completion, albeit completely falsely. [People who multitask] are not being more productive they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work."... This is what researcher Zhen Wang mentions in a recent study on multitasking. She mentioned that if we study with our books open, watch TV at the same time and text friends every so often, we get a great feeling of fulfillment. We are getting all these things done at once, and we feel incredibly efficient... Unfortunately, exactly the opposite is the case. Students who engaged heavily in multitasking activities felt great, but their results were much worse than that of people who didnt multitask.vi Based upon the fact that God reveals Himself generally to His entire creation and that He grants common grace to all, Christians would do well to heed to such research. Things as basic as daily devotions and fellowship with Christians could suffer if the believer does not take seriously the dangerous consequences of multitasking. After all, when one doesnt give his undivided attention to God, the Scriptures and its precepts, then he is deficient in his obedience. In her publication in The New Atlantis, Christine Rosen informs the reader of a recent study performed by Russell Poldrack, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He found that multitasking adversely affects how you learn. Even if you learn while multitasking, that learning is less flexible and more specialized, so you cannot retrieve the information as easily.vii Christians try to multitask during their daily devotions, prayer, church

events, Bible studies, and even seminary courses. As such, they are inadvertently causing their brains to suffer informational loss. Poldracks research supports this claim. His research demonstrates that people use different areas of the brain for learning and storing new information when they are distracted: brain scans of people who are distracted or multitasking show activity in the striatum, a region of the brain involved in learning new skills; brain scans of people who are not distracted show activity in the hippocampus, a region involved in storing and recalling information. Discussing his research on National Public Radio recently, Poldrack warned, We have to be aware that there is a cost to the way that our society is changing, that humans are not built to work this way. Were really built to focus. And when we sort of force ourselves to multitask, were driving ourselves to perhaps be less efficient in the long run even though it sometimes feels like were being more efficient.viii God calls His child to love Him with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. How much is the multitasking leader failing to love God with his entire mind? When the leader fails to put his focus on obedience to God and falls short of being counter-cultural, he is doing a disservice to himself, those around him, and to the Lord. Even James, the half-brother of Jesus, warns that the double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). Christians ought to rest in their assurance of the Scriptures and upon Gods faithfulness for finding true Sabbath rest. Furthermore, they should listen to the research of modern science in this field and be confident that God is making it known that they are harming themselves and He is encouraging them to listen to His whisper.

Melinda Beck. 2012. What Cocktail Parties Teach Us. The Wall Street Journal 23 April 2012. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303459004577361850069498164.html?mod=dje mLifeStyle_h

R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison & Thomas Nelson Publishers, Ed. Nelsons new illustrated Bible dictionary. 1995. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Heb 4:911). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. Ibid.: Eze 20:12. Ibid.: Lk 15:2829.



Leo Widrich. 2012. What Multitasking Does to Our Brains. Buffer 26 June 2012. http://blog.bufferapp.com/what-multitasking-does-to-our-brains

Christine Rosen. 2008. The Myth of Multitasking. The New Atlantis 20 (Spring, 2008). www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-myth-of-multitasking