We are driven by our need for more. More of this and more of that equals more of what we really don’t need. As I’ve served in churches for the past 20 years I’ve discovered that the Body of Christ in general has a fear of doing less.
Logic says the more we do, the more people will come, the more people will give…but it’s quite the opposite. The more we do, the more mediocre we can get. The more things we do, the more confused we get about what we should really be doing. The more programs we birth, the more likely we are to never let them end. Feeding the need for more is killing churches because churches can’t keep up with the demand and the pace.
So instead of doing more, churches say no more. This too is a mistake. The pendulum swings to the other extreme of not doing anything and preserving what they have. Churches then become a shell of what they once were and a museum for what used to be.
In the Kingdom less is more. This is the tension that must exist in the church today. John the Baptist revealed a powerful truth when he expressed to Jesus, “I must decrease, you must increase.” The church must embrace the power of this truth. When the busyness of church activities and programming decrease, the Father’s business becomes evident and clear.
I helped guide a church through this decreasing process and we likened it to the imagery of what Jesus said to us in John 15:1 –
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
Less is painful. If forces us to look at the branches that demand our time and energy but are not producing any life. When the lifeless branches are cut off then the branches we don’t cut off get more of our attention, but they too need some cutting back so they can flourish in the season ahead.
As we enter into a busy time of the year for church world let me give you three ways you can decrease as your headed into 2016.
Decrease Your Big Events – Take time to assess your events that you’ve been doing. Instead of adding something to the calendar pray about taking something off. Which event is not producing the fruit you desire, but demanding a lot of your team’s time and energy? Busyness is not always God’s business and drawing a crowd is not success unless spiritual outcomes equal the investment that is sown into the event (Time, money, resources, etc.).
Decrease Your Activity for 1 Month – The church has become known more for putting you to work, rather than a place you come to find true rest. We have lost the art of the Sabbath! We applaud companies like Chick-Fil-A for giving their employees rest by being closed on Sundays, but in church world we ignore the value of rest. In his book Addicted to Busy, Pastor Brady Boyd emphasized, “You can’t ignore the Sabbath and survive.” I served at a church where we implemented into our calendar year a month of rest. After Thanksgiving programs stopped, we scaled back our Christmas production, and served and housed the homeless for a week instead. We just kept things simple through the Christmas season and initially people were simply mad, kicking and screaming, because they were used to being busy for God. A few years later people began to appreciate the extra time with their families and loved ones. It was something they looked forward to. Decreasing helped them increase the most important things in their life and in our church.
Decrease Your Meetings – People don’t need an extra meeting to go to during the week. North Coast Church led by Pastor Larry Osborne has over 80% of his church in small groups. In his book Sticky Church he gives insight on how that has happened.
As a rule of thumb, most people will participate in only two time slots a week. No matter what that third meeting is for or when it takes place, it is hard to get anyone to show up. At North Coast we’ve chosen to adjust our ministry to this reality. Our entire church and our sermon based small groups are designed to work within the two-time-slot paradigm. We chose to radically cut competition because we felt that none of these other programs had the potential to provide the breadth and depth of significant relationships, or the laser like focus on God’s Word, that we could achieve with sermon-based small groups. Without cutting the competition so severely, there is no way we ever could have reached an 80 percent participation rate in our small group program. And without keeping things trimmed back, we wouldn’t have been able to sustain it, either. Admittedly, it’s much easier to cut the competition in a small or start-up ministry. All you have to do is say no. In more-established ministries, layer upon layer of competition already exists.
Notice the phrases cut competition, laser like focus, and trimmed back. Proof that when things are reduced the power to reproduce something healthy is increased. It’s challenging to move from more to less, but as you do you begin to see God do a lot more with a lot less! Less is More.
Happy Thanksgiving and may your less be more in the season ahead!