This past weekend we had an "E-fast" at Bethany. As a spiritual exercise, we adapted the time-honored practice of fasting from food and instead "fasted" from all electronic devices. The thinking was that people today use electronics more often than they eat, and so an "E-fast" would provide more challenges throughout the day for people to step back from the world and focus instead on Christ and His creation.
To promote doing this together as a church family, we met at 9am on Saturday for a prayer service before heading out into our vocations and enjoying our electronics-free day. About 40 of us attended the service; dozens more participated in the E-fast on their own. Here are the basic rules we sent out to the congregation:
Rules for the 24hr E-fast
“UNPLUG from the world!”
1. There should be no use of the following electronics:
c. Video games in any form. (Hand held, TV or computer)
d. I-Pods, stereo, radio in home or car, & CDs.
2. There should be no activities with the family that would involve the use of these things such as going to a movie theatre or a gaming place.
3. Phones and cell phones are to be used only in an emergency. There should be no unnecessary phone calls, texting or use of the internet, e-mail or gaming on your cell phone.
Those were the rules. To help people take full advantage of the blessing of fasting, we offered the following ideas to help people with their devotion. I say "take full advantage" of this opportunity because fasting of all kinds is for our benefit, not to merit any favor before God - just as "the Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:29).
IDEAS FOR YOUR E-FAST DAY
* Family Devotion - extend your family devotional time by digging into one of your favorite Bible stories and then discussing together how you fit into the story – and how Christ is at the center.
* Catechism Challenge - review part or all of the Small Catechism and then focus on something you may have forgotten. Re-memorize that part and let it be your meditation throughout the day.
* Family Prayer – extend your prayer time so you can name and give thanks for all the "plugged in" things available to us in this country and in this century. Praise God for richly and daily providing all we need to support this body and life.
* Family Walk - it isn’t necessary to spend all 24 hours in non-stop prayer, but consider taking a Scripture Verse or Catechism Verse to memorize and meditate upon while you walk together as a family. Be open to letting the Spirit lead your conversation and meditation to surprising places!
* Have a Hymn Sing – have everyone in the family pick a favorite hymn and/or a favorite song and let the Word dwell in you richly through song. Start by praying a psalm together. Psalms of praise include 98, 100, 117, 136, 148, 150.
* Meditation - Pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the Word, take a few minutes to clear y our mind, read a chapter from the Bible and allow your mind to go wherever the Word suggests, spend time in prayer over that which comes to mind. It may be confession of sins, prayers for the needs of others, prayers for your own concerns, and thanksgiving. Return to a key Verse from the chapter after your prayers, commit it to your memory, and let it speak to you throughout the day.
We also wanted people to enjoy the temporal blessings of being "unplugged", and so encouraged them to enjoy extra time with their family and friends as well as to spend special time in God's Word. So we came up with a list of activities for unplugged family fun, just to get people thinking about the possibilities of what they might do away from so many modern conveniences
*Wash Family Pet
*Clean Garage or Basement
*Go to the Zoo
*Go to a water park or an amusement Park
*Family Reading Time – read on your own, but also take time to read aloud to one another!
*Go for a Bike Ride – this could be a chance to meditate on a Verse, too!
*Go the the park
*Have a Picnic
*Make Dinner as a Family
*Clean the House – this can be a surprisingly good time if everyone invests in it fully!
*Play Outside Yard Games (basketball, volleyball, badminton, croquet, baseball, softball)
*Remember loved ones (visit the cemetery)
*Pick Up Trash in Your Neighborhood - or even someone else’s neighborhood!
*Go to the Library – remember what we used to read before blogs???
*Look at Family Photos – and share your family history with your children.
One of our main themes for this year's Rally Day was to encourage all members of our congregation to find at least one thing to do regularly for the body of Christ at Bethany. The E-fast was intended to give people time to pray about how they might participate in the Lord's ministry through our congregation. Hopefully, the perspectives we got from living a day without electronics gave us time to consider much more than that: how much God wants to participate in our lives, and how we are freed in Christ to enjoy fellowship with Him and with each other.