Leader's Insight: Living with Less
Everywhere I go these days, big is in. My combo meal is super-sized, my SUV is third row, and the TV of my dreams is 62-inch plasma. We Americans are big eaters, big spenders, and big wasters. Even our churches are into big, owning big malls and even bigger coliseums in order to accommodate big crowds and enable big growth. Like the population at large, we Christians seem to have a growing acceptance of the bigger is better credo.
But all this growth might be creating some big problems.
Our society and systems seem unable of handling the never-ceasing expansion of want and need. Our souls are groaning and the planet is buckling beneath the collateral damage of growth. Landfills are full, the air is thick, and we cannot drink from many of our streams.
In light of our growing problems, maybe the church should give small a chance. I propose that ministry leaders are just the ones to help Christ followers exchange big for small. After all, leaders are supposed to help usher others toward something better (not just something bigger), so maybe we should start ushering folks toward living lives that are less hectic, less cluttered, less selfish and less toxic. And maybe instead of a big ad campaign advertising "LESS!" we should start living with less ourselves. Instead of the pulpit, maybe some personal choices would help slow down the growth, bring some sanity to our lives and make the world more livable.
Give less a chance.
Our family recently decided to sell our riding mower because its impact on the environment was not offset by its necessity. Shortly after, my wife quipped, "I think we're becoming tree-huggers."
How had it come to this? After all, I have a strong dislike of Birkenstocks, I think Michael Moore is a narcissist, and I appreciate creature comforts every bit as much as the next guy. So why is my family choosing to push-mow the lawn, ditch the extra television, and experiment with line-drying our clothes? I'm not sure how it all began or where it's going, but we've adopted a series of small questions that are redirecting our souls and may be benefiting the world around us.
Three small questions
Not to cast blame, but my journey toward less started with Randy Frazee. Prior to a conference in 2003, Randy and I had a dinner conversation during which he shared with me the somewhat radical lifestyle changes his family had made in order to make room for real relationships.
A few months later Randy wrote the book Making Room for Life. When my wife and I read that book, we started talking and eventually began asking the question of simplification, "Even though something is commonplace, do we really need it in our lives?"
With that question in mind, all sorts of things were up for grabs: buying a house in the "right" school district, needing two incomes, cell phones, minivans, and even (hold your breath!) signing our kids up for soccer. It was like a little compact fluorescent light bulb turned on to illuminate some of the chains of conformity we had allowed to make our decisions for us. We began to see how deeply we'd bought into culture's code of success being equated with more and more. The results of all this "more" were clutter and confusion and so we decided to simplify our lives. Removing some of the typical suburban clutter was a bit scary, but over the course of a few years, it really has begun to make room for life.