Simplicity. It’s one of our obsessions.
Now that magazines, consultants, and television shows all have our attention, we’re eager to learn how to pare down to what really matters.
We feel glutted—overstuffed on overabundance. We are sick of our calendars and Amazon shopping carts being jammed full with far more than we need. Maybe less is more, we think.
A decluttered entryway. Leisurely evenings. A reduced pace of life. We’re searching for the simple life.
But to what end? What is it we’re after? What will fill the void created by our new, simple lives?
‘JUST BE THERE. THEY WILL COME.’
When my husband and I sensed God calling us to plant a church in our new neighborhood, the man we consider our spiritual father had some wise words for us.
“Do not get busy,” he said. “If you want to minister to your neighbors and your community, you need to be home. Don’t make a bunch of commitments. Just be there. They will come.”
I didn’t believe him. I couldn’t imagine our new neighbors stopping by and coming in for a while. And for months, they didn’t. For months our house was pretty quiet. Except for the occasional hello at the end of the driveway, we didn’t really know anyone.
Then spring came. We all emerged from our houses into the sunshine. Chats in the cul-de-sac turned into casual meals. Long talks at the mailbox rolled into afternoons on the front lawn. We threw a block party and invited all the houses up and down the street. Most of them came and stayed late.
From those informal moments grew regular gatherings, coffee, book club, frequent backyard cookouts. Our daughters became everyone’s pet sitters and babysitters. As we welcomed others in, they welcomed us into their foyers, kitchens, and lives.
Our mentor was right: we were just there, and they came.
SIMPLICITY GIVES BIRTH TO COMMUNITY
We carried this conviction to just be there into our church plant. Along with a handful of like-minded families, we wondered if God was asking us to start something simple—a community that loves Jesus, believes in the power of the gospel, and wants to just be there for our neighbors—and for whatever the Lord might want to do among them.
Church met in our living room on Friday nights. Kids spilled out into the front yard and the cul-de-sac. Cars lined the streets. Our patio was packed with people. Neighbors asked, “What are you doing in there?”
“Church!” we said. “You wanna come?”
We were just there, and they came.
CREATED FOR COMMUNITY
We instinctively know it is not good for us to be alone (Gen. 2:18). We were created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26) who himself lives in the intimate community of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We long for—and need—deep relationships with those who are near.
Like many neighborhoods in the United States, mine is host to an array of activities, more than we could ever do in one lifetime. We have plenty to keep us busy: PTA meetings, trips to the gym, music recitals, and tennis matches, all of which are easy to attend without actually connecting with another person.
We tend to be physically present, but relationally absent. Our overstuffed schedules keep us moving at a pace that prohibits more than a reflexive wave or nod of the head. We long for more, but the buffet of options vying for our time makes it tough to connect.
And so, when someone is just there—when someone holds still and makes time to linger—we’re moved. We’re drawn in. We want more.
LOVED BY THE GOD WHO IS THERE
We’re attracted to Immanuel—God with us. We love, and feel loved by, the God who is there. He knows this; he made us this way. Throughout time, he has reminded us he is there.
- When Joshua took over leadership of Israel from Moses, God said to him, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you … do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:5, 9).
- Though the prophet Isaiah God comforted Israel, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is. 41:10).
- In oft-repeated Psalm 23, David said to the Lord, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4).
- Jesus’ very last words to his disciples before ascending into heaven were, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
- God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
When we are just there, we reflect our Savior, who moved from heaven to earth to be with us (Phil. 2:5-11). By simply being there, we can be like Jesus, who gave up his throne in heaven to be with us. It’s a ministry of presence and, in this frenetic world, it’s a holy calling.
SIMPLICITY FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL
We Christ-followers don’t seek and offer simplicity for the same reason as magazines, HGTV, or Marie Kondo. We’re not offering up a Zen lifestyle or more time to perfect our hobbies. We pursue simplicity for the sake of the gospel. In offering our presence, we offer God’s presence to others.
Just being there is one of the best gifts we can give our neighbors who don’t yet know the intimacy and unconditional love of Jesus Christ. We are God’s temple and God dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16). When we sit in the rocking chairs on our front porch with our neighbors, so does Jesus. When we spend enough time talking on the driveway and earn the privilege to hear of our neighbor’s cancer diagnosis, Jesus is there.
And just being there is one of the best gifts we can give to our brothers and sisters in Christ, too. A simple pace of life is an act of ministry in our church. Just being there—avoiding the temptation to fill our evenings with commitments, disciplining ourselves to be free and available to our church family—is ministry.
We isolate ourselves when we pursue a frenetic pace of life. We kill community by glutting ourselves on all the activities culture has to offer—both with the unbeliever and the believer in Christ. When we are too busy to gather, we lose something of the dynamic nature the God who is there.
A simple life, a simple schedule creates space for relationships, intimacy, and community. To just be there is to reflect our Savior to the lost and the found. When we are there, Jesus is there.
The world is on to something in its pursuit of the simple life. We all know there’s more to this life. May we, the church, excel in paring down and seeking the simple life. May we declutter our schedules and make space for one another. May we fill the void left by simplicity with community. May our simple lives bring God glory and loves to our neighbors. And may that community be one that lifts high the name of Jesus.
Jen Oshman is a wife and mom to four daughters and has served as a missionary for 17 years on three continents. She currently resides in Colorado where she and her husband serve with Pioneers International, and she encourages her church-planting husband at Redemption Parker. Her passion is leading women to a deeper faith and fostering a biblical worldview. She writes at www.jenoshman.com.