Let me start this post by reminding readers that I think attentiveness is the key to participating in the mission of God. The missional church conversation begins and ends with the conviction that the mission is God’s and not ours to invent or manufacture. If it were ours to invent, then busyness would be the highest priority. But since it doesn’t belong to us, but to God, then paying attention is the highest priority. And the number one enemy to attentiveness is distraction born of busy-ness.
There is hardly anything in our culture that invites us to slow down, and the calls to fill our lives with as much as we can are everywhere. But this doesn’t deliver to us the real world. It delivers instead a world under the illusion of our control. In fact, it is a world wherein we serve the principalities and powers of this age–a false world, a world where events and people are just markers on the way to something else, something more, something just out of reach. To live in the real world of others, with others, requires a different set of practices. It requires slower, leaner, simpler. A simple world keeps it real.
There are multiple ways to practice simplicity. And there’s no one way for everyone. But I think efforts to simplify life always result in two things: more time for actual interactions with people, and time for more reflection. So, whether its cutting down your commute by moving closer to your job, limiting the number of activities your kids participate in, choosing to live in a smaller home that requires less income and upkeep, shedding possessions (especially those that demand your time and attention), saying no to the promotion that will require more responsibilities and time, watching less tv or consuming less social media, these kinds of changes almost inevitably lead to more connection with others and more time for reflection. In other words, more attentiveness.
Again, there’s no recipe here. And there are trade-offs. Your kids may be less connected to some of their friends, but they’ll have more of their parents’ attention. You may not know what’s going on in Game of Thrones or Survivor, but you’ll pray more and think of your friends who need encouragement more. Some of these decisions may feel like loss, especially initially. But the Kingdom of God is about loss, unavoidably about loss, for the greater sake of having a “single-eyed” devotion to the life given in the Kingdom.
But here’s where we may actually run into the unyielding buzz saw in terms of busy-ness. We might make all kinds of movements toward simplicity in other areas of our lives only to be pulled deeper into the vortex of a frenetic church life. I know very few churches who are making their lives more simple. Instead, they are doubling down on programs, making their worship more complex, and begging you for more time. And we’re buyers, in this offer of significance, because to us a church stacked full of programs is a church that serves our needs. I’m looking for a church willing to make the trade–less complexity and busy-ness for more attentiveness to God. Can you even imagine what this would look like? But I think moves in this direction have to be made for the church to begin to think of mission, not as something that we invent or manufacture, but as something that belongs to God in which we participate.