Doing more with less

“Twice as much ain’t twice as good.”

John Mayer’s Continuum album is one of the better pieces of music offered to the world in my lifetime.  The players, the vibe, the lyrics – all outstanding.  The song in question, Gravity, is a brilliant tune that explores deep themes of loss, failure, and learning to do more with less.

As we endure the new world of 2020 and prepare for what comes next, we find ourselves feeling many emotions.  Some of us have lost a whole lot.  Life has changed.  Many are counting the days left in this year, excited and hopeful that the next will bring some sort of new beginning.

I don’t think that will happen, but maybe we can learn to be happier with less.  Before the world changed I don’t think we appreciated things like we do now (if we have learned anything).  A few weeks ago a church member who returned for the first time in nearly a year just stood there and cried through the service; later I asked him why, and he attributed it to just being able to attend church.  Recently my wife and I went out for ice cream.  We sat on a bench without anyone around for the first time in a long time.  I think we were the happiest people in Georgia.  I’ve never appreciated ice cream, or time out with my wife alone, so much.

Once between songs at a house concert Bill Mallonee mused about hardship.  “Scarcity brings an appreciation for what’s truly precious,” he quipped.  How true this is.

So as we move into a new year perhaps we are learning that maybe we don’t need coffee and a full band to have church and maybe God can do some amazing things with what we feel is a very small amount of raw material.  That theme is consistent through the Bible.

The inspiring story of Gideon in the Old Testament book of Judges comes to mind.  It’s a great underdog story; pretty much everything goes opposite of what we might thing winning looks like.  Gideon is born into a time of terrible trouble.  He comes from nowhere; he is a nobody.  God pares his army down from tens of thousands to 300 who drink like animals and fight with trumpets.  In God’s economy, this is more than enough to win a great battle, and he does.

A little later in Israel’s history we find Jonathan showing great courage in similar fashion.  He secretly leads a tiny team of elite warriors into the enemy camp.  His reasoning?  “Perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6)

A similar encouragement was spoken by the prophet Zechariah to a bedraggled people in need of revival: “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.”

Hundreds of years later, after Jesus had come and gone, his disciples told the good news to everyone they met.  Everywhere they went, all heaven and hell broke loose.  Demons fled, the sick were healed, lives were transformed.  The rulers of the time, both political and religious, couldn’t fathom it.  These uneducated and untrained men were turning the world upside down, and it all started because they hung out with Jesus.

So maybe the idea of doing more with less shouldn’t be so strange after all.  I’ve always been suspicious of the safe, sanitized, slick church model of our day.  Those days might be coming to and end, and I think we’re the better for it.

As we approach a new year let’s evaluate what we still have, turn a fierce grin into the cold wind, and follow Jesus with everything we have!

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At VCC, we believe that church is not a function: it is a family. Our religion is only as alive as we are, the people that pursue it. So, rather than acting as an organization, we want to act as an organism. We have no time for casual contacts and meaningless formalities. We are a fellowship on an adventure towards the stuff of God. Church means worshipping God together, studying the Bible together, fixing our cars together, hiking together, eating together, playing together, praying together... enjoying the warmth of the Holy Spirit in all parts of our lives together, not just in appointed meeting times.