When Less Is More: Reflections on Christian ADHD

The number of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnoses among our population continues to increase. […]

JMG / 7.9.14

The number of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnoses among our population continues to increase. There might be good, reliable scientific evidence to back it up, but I must admit I am a bit “old school.” There seems to be a tendency to affix labels and categorize every little thing resulting in the ‘baseline’ of ‘normalcy’ shrinking until nobody falls within its boundaries. But enough of that.

My contemplation of ADHD and where I find it under diagnosed is in our churches. A couple of months ago, I was at a conference aiming to ‘renew’ and ‘re-charge’ Christians. I know this sounds crazy, but focusing on Jesus Christ, who he is and what he’s done, seems like it should always fit the bill. But ‘Christian ADHD’ surfaced once again: an attention deficit on Christ and Hyperactivity Disorder in our lives, with our ‘spiritual growth’ in the crosshairs.


My wife and I left each session of the conference utterly amazed, perplexed, and often incredulous. The conferees received two spiritual beatings a day, routinely chided for laxity and admonished to “Wake up and smell the coffee.” These well-meaning folks simply wanted to hear some good news; to have their souls refreshed in a beautiful setting. But instead, the “man of God/leader” (whom they listen to because he is, after all, the “man of God”) foisted impossible burdens upon them. They nodded, vowed to get it right this time, and (I suspect) secretly wanted to toss this whole faith business in the garbage bin.

We seem fixated on looking anywhere but to Jesus for renewal. This quotation from Donald Fairbairn in his book Life in the Trinity kept coming to mind all of last week: “[The Church Fathers] modeled faith in God by directing everyone’s gaze toward God but did not articulate what it meant to have faith.” He continues, “In light of this, it is perhaps appropriate today for evangelicals to spend less time seeking to nail down exactly what faith is and instead to point other people to the only one who is truly worthy of their faith, Jesus Christ.”(p.188).

Yet this seems so hard for the church to do. ‘Christian ADHD’ takes hold, and we look anywhere else for spiritual growth or transformation or sanctification or fruit or whatever else we want to call this obsession with ourselves and where we fit on a scale we’d be better off forgetting. Where we humans have no deficiency of attention is on ourselves. So we listen to ‘experts’ tell us to “wake up” and get with the program because we aren’t salty enough, our lights are dim, and that we are lukewarm water in the Lord’s mouth. Prepare to be spewed.

Theologian James Torrance says that the unconditional love of God in the gospel is sufficient; otherwise “We throw people back upon themselves.” That is the consequence of ADHD Christianity – we are thrown back upon ourselves. And instead of renewal or refreshment in the gospel, we believe more is required of us. Is it any wonder the church undertakes initiatives such as “Invite a Friend to Church Sunday?” Have you had your beating this week?