Saturday, January 05, 2008

Paring Down

Living simply seems to be a popular concept these days, particularly in a culture such as ours that is bombarded with advertisements and messages telling you to have more, do more, be more. As I've grown older, I've learned more and more the importance of paring down certain areas of my life. A rich, fulfilled life is not based upon how many things I have or even how many friends I have or the number of Bible studies in which I'm involved.

I think that for Christians, learning to pare down in the area of involvement at church is a challenge. Several years ago, when our church had an active singles group, I was very involved in it. I either led, helped plan or participated in various Bible studies, retreats, game nights, birthday name it, I was there. As I recall, I was also active in other areas at church on top of that. And I quickly learned that too much involvement, even in areas of ministry, can lead to burnout.

For the most part, I enjoyed participating in all those activities. But I am sure that some of the involvement came from a combination of pride in my abilities, and sometimes feeling that I needed to lead a particular activity or ministry because no one else would step up to the plate. No wonder I burned out.

Since then, I've chosen more wisely the number of ministries I participate in each year. I have to admit that for a while, I felt guilty if I didn't sign up for a certain number of ministries. But that was Satan trying to get me to that burned-out, no-good-to-anyone level. Now, before I sign up for ministry opportunities, I try to spend time in prayer about it and seek God's guidance in it. Some years He prompts me to focus on just two or three ministries. Sometimes He leads me to do more. The number really doesn't matter. What matters is seeking the approval of God, not of man.

Jesus knew the value of living simply. He limited the number of apostles He chose, and even among the twelve, he chose a select few to be His closest friends. He withdrew from crowds and distractions to spend time alone with God. He did not even try to heal everyone, and certainly did not try to please everyone. He was focused on doing what God had put Him on Earth to do, and He was not distracted from the Kingdom business.

As I start a new year and begin to fill in the calendar in my day planner, it's a good time to ask God to reveal areas of my life that need simplifying. Perhaps it's spending less time on the Internet and more time studying. Perhaps it's letting some subscriptions expire for magazines that I rarely have time to get around to reading. Maybe it's paring down my wardrobe so that I don't have a daily dilemma about what to wear that day. Maybe it's concentrating the bulk of my time and energies on a few close friendships rather than a dozen casual friendships.

Simplifying is not an easy thing to do. But the fewer distractions in our lives, the more we are able to focus on where God is leading us.


Jon Owen said...

Great thoughts. In church world a popular book and the big buzz now is "Simple Church." Great stuff. Corporations are learning this, churches, and it needs to trickle down to each individual. We can only be effective in so many areas. A good book on this is "Now, Discover Your Strengths" by Marcus Buckingham. The idea is that we focus on operating in our strengths rather than trying to improve our weaknesses. While it is not a spiritual book, you can see the spiritual implications. Seems like one body many parts comes to mind. Also Paul writing about church leadership and saying, "he gave some to be..." and listed different roles for different people.

Lisa the stuff you write on your blog is similar to stuff I've encountered over the last few years. Get into podcasting. You need to be a regular subscriber to...

Andy Stanley - North Point Community Church

Rob Bell - Mars Hill Church

Catalyst Podcast

Francis Chan - Cornerstone Semi-Vally.

Those should get you started.

Go to for some other great resources. There's lot more so let me know when you're ready.

donna said...

Great thoughts LIsa.

I like the book Simple Church too...and I listen to most of the Pod Casts that Jon mentions...good ideas!