Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reviewing Tim Challies' The Next Story

When I initially heard about Tim Challies’ newest book, The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion, I had no desire to read it. That is saying something significant considering I am on his site almost every day. I found his first book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, to be an enjoyable and beneficial read, but a book focused on technology simply did not spark my interest. Interestingly enough, a colleague who did not know I was a fan of Challies.com recommended The Next Story to me, and after receiving a free audiobook and hardback, I am thankful to have listened to and read Mr. Challies' latest work. The Next Story is far more than a book about technology. This is a book about using technology in a God-glorifying way and a history lesson of how we often have not done that.

Part one of The Next Story covers three chapters focusing on God's intended use of technology, the relationship between humans and technology, and a digital history. Part two covers six chapters and is more practical. The topics of communication, mediation/identity, distractions, information, truth/authority, visibility, and privacy are emphasized here. These are important topics that we should critically examine. We are constantly in front of screens sending emails, watching Youtube videos, blogging about life, uploading pictures, updating our Facebook statuses, surfing articles, and more, and this is having an impact on us. Mr. Challies addresses all of these topics in 200 pages (or nine hours of audio) with the use of Scripture. The Next Story contains much-needed counsel to help us to discipline our use of technology.

Reading The Next Story has made me really reevaluate not only how I use technology, but how I communicate and spend time with others. I serve as a principal at an international school where I am constantly checking and answering emails. I have had my head buried in my iPhone or MacBook Pro far too often, and this has unfortunately carried over to my home. The overwhelming majority of us probably need to visit fewer websites, not look at our inbox so often, and turn off all the dings and chimes on our smartphones. I have made some changes in my life in an effort to prevent technology from owning me, but more improvements will need to be made.

I plan on reading portions of The Next Story again this summer, but at a slower pace and sharing what I have learned with the administrators and teachers I work with. I also want the middle school students at TIS to not only use computers to access information on the Net and complete their assignments but to do so in a spiritually discerning way. The Next Story is a book that will help us in that quest. I have nothing but praise for this book. If endorsements mean anything to you, it should be noted that a number of prominent people including Bryan Chapell, President of Covenant Seminary, Michael Horton, Editor-in-Chief of Modern Reformation magazine, and Justin Taylor, Managing Editor of the ESV Study Bible, have only good words for The Next Story. I highly recommend checking it out.

Disclaimer: Zondervan sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. A positive review was not required.