Less is More
I have been living a life in this new city and yes, it’s a big city, it’s new and exciting, but more than anything, it is so difficult. I feel like a branch cut out of a bush and set in a new environment, struggling not thriving. New people—but I don’t want new friends, I just want my friends I had. New churches—but I never wanted a new church. I want my beautiful little circle back in Pensacola. And so I keep repeating this little phrase to myself: “Be ok with less.”
Then this morning I read a verse out of Jeremiah 48:11:
“Moab has been at ease from his youth
and has settled on his dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
nor has he gone into exile;
so his taste remains in him,
and his scent is not changed.”
Ok I know—what the heck does that mean—hang on, it’s just comparing Moab to the process of making wine and how Moab wasn’t handled in the way wine should have been—being emptied from vessel to vessel, and therefore it was unfit wine to drink.
“Emptied from vessel to vessel.”
“Emptied.” What a scary word.
When I want to complain that I miss my friends. My home. Surfing. Sunshine. etc. etc. etc. “Be ok with less.” Becuase I am here for a purpose: to write a book. Can I live with less, be poured out, for the sake of this end goal?
Ok so ALSO, I went to church today. I’m officially a church shopper here, yep. Ugh, really?
Two weeks ago, I moved to a city with hundreds, if not thousands of churches. And people first ask me where I’m from. Then, the second question I get is “Have you found a church home?” Immediately followed by “Oh, you should try this and this church, you would like it.” As if I’m a consumer trying to pick my favorite product. What are they selling?
I hate that my faith is reduced to what I like best. Or even where can I serve best. Can I repeat? I HATE IT. That’s so wrong! My friend’s reasoning when I mentioned it: “Well, when you are blessed to have this many solid Bible-believing churches, you do get to pick.” But it still irks me.
So I’m peeved by a “subscribe to our name” mentality when I walk in the door this morning (although I’m still going because I KNOW there are so many well-meaning Bible-believing people actually IN these churches). I sat down in a pew and got to thinking about this “be ok with less” thing and the church.
What would a church that is willing to be poured out look like? Is that even possible? It would be losing everything it has—which would be it’s whole congregation—for the sake of the gospel. If we truly were headed that way, we’d be taking these people in, and training every one of them to be able to leave and go do what the pastor is somewhere else—so multiple guys would all take turns at the pulpit, or teaching the Sunday School, or leading worship every Sunday ya? “That’s weird, though.” You are meant to be trained and used, friend. (God doesn’t need a degree to use you.) But to be perfectly honest, listening to one guy every Sunday doesn’t train me at all. I might be inspired a bit more, but I rarely learn anything from a pulpit message anymore. I mainly come for the people I’ll meet.
So what would having less look like again? Could we be a church without handouts, music, dress-up, buildings, readings? Christ said people will know me by your love for each other—and really, I don’t see that at church very well. I see people all facing forward, focused on one man and a few worship leaders. A system that is trying to attract to those few. Extra! Extra! — we worship this way, do communion every week, design this in our handouts, include this in the service, dress this way in this church. What do you like best?
My heart throbs because I have seen and known true community. I have seen a love and power in a community that makes this forward-facing, pastor-focused traditional church taste like cheap wine. And it was simple—like having meals together, weekly bonfires, simple bible studies (see my post “To My Sloth Gang”).
Our fancy services and traditions are making crooked the straight paths of the Lord—making a complicated maze path out of what was supposed to be a direct shot. Maybe stripping away everything extra and making the way of the Lord as simple and straightforward as it can be isn’t such a bad idea.