This past week I stumbled upon a blog post about living more simply. It stated that the average North American house has something like 300 000 objects in it and that there is a movement of people trying to get their number down to under 1000. They suggest the things we own in reality own us; and they propose a bunch of ways to lower our number. One way, if you are interested, is to spend a month progressively getting rid of more and more stuff, day one 1 item, day two 2 items, and so on and so forth through a month (presumably you give things away not just throw stuff in the garbage exchanging one problem for another).
Part of me jumped at this, as someone whose life is more than complicated enough I don’t really need my house to be complicated, right? Mary and I moved in September and in doing so we saw our house size more than triple, that’s a big change. We went from no yard to a double lot with many flowers and fruits trees. It’s a lot of work and a lot of responsibility. So I should want less stuff right?
But much of what we own is thought out, mostly it is stuff actually use and is off high quality (we are the type to buy good kitchen knives and hope they last 30 years). Sure we have an abundance of mugs, but we also host meetings and gatherings at our place pretty regularly (not to mention the revolving door of guests), sure we have a lot of books, but our kids will hopefully read them one day (and us too), we have lots of sports gear but we use it. Last night I sat on one of my two decks, on patio furniture recently gifted us by a kind couple at the church, and I was pleased to know that my wife was inside reading a book, my boys were slumbering and my dog was sitting at my feet. Simplicity takes many forms.
All this thinking about simplicity got me thinking about church. What role do numbers have, and how many programs do we need? Is more always more? More people in the pews, more programs, more space, a bigger kitchen, is it all really more? I used to be among those who tell themselves it wasn’t because it was just busyness, and it is a poor way to evaluate what is going on at a church. To some degree that is still my thinking, there needs to be a quality present beyond simple numbers.
Yet to argue that bigger isn’t better is a way out of our calling to spread the gospel, to baptize and make disciples of all nations. I know the times have changed but why has our vision and our goals changed so radically? We used to expect people would go to church, we used to expect that the church was a place where things were happening and important relationships were built, that a church was a place to go when a person needed help, or someone to listen to them. Today we seem to expect to be on the margins, to be of little consequence, a light-weight in society politics and culture.
I believe in a big God capable of big things. I believe we are His people and he wants us to love him and to love our neighbors. If we believe the Gospel that Jesus died so that everyone who believes in him can have eternal life, then we ought to be making sure we are doing everything we can to spread that message.
Get smaller? Do less? No thanks, we need to do some things to be welcoming, and do them well and with love. And yes discipleship is a long-term process and programs, bible studies, and meals cooked together play a part in it. These events require people in leadership, people cooking (often there should be an overlap between these different parts), people cleaning, people watching kids, people listening to others, people praying together, reading God’s word together, and yes more people is better, it’s more voices, it’s more listening, it’s more love, it’s more brokenness being healed, it’s more isolation being tamed, it’s more Christ bursting into lives and communities.
This week I am not thinking about dropping an item or two a day, I am thinking about picking up a soul or two a day for God and how we are going to do that. It’s very simple after all the church ahs a job to do, God prepares the way and God opens the hearts, all we have to do is follow him. Simplicity takes many forms.