DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Is More Really More?

Written by: on March 14, 2019

I opened my laptop after reading Digital Minimalism and noticed the clutter on my screen in a new way. Before opening Microsoft Word, I minimized the following; 10+ website tabs from yesterday’s business and surfing; Evernote with several windows; email app; Nozbe task manage; Messenger; and iCal. And I consider myself a bit of a minimalist with technology. This book resonated and would with any non-Amish I believe.

With all the notes and highlights and suggestions I would like to follow through on from Newport, I am left with one question he addresses.

Is more really more?

I am torn between what I think is the right answer and what is my experience and my practices.

And then I wonder about my theology of time and if it has anything to do with this question. I wonder how God views time and how it may differ from my own perspective. I watch as the people ahead of me in line at the coffee shop immediately grab their phones after ordering and start pressing on screens while they wait. Maximize is the god of today. Optimization is an idol. After all, time is money. And then there is the entertainment addiction epidemic. But is this God’s perspective of time? Something to use, beat, squeeze, and stuff? I wonder.

When we believe that ‘more is more’ in church leadership, there are consequences. At best, we are stretched to believe God is bigger and better than we can imagine. God has more love and grace for humanity – so much that is difficult to fathom. Truly more of God is well, more. And that is wonderful.

At worst, it keeps us constantly hustling and suspicious of rest. We ignore seasons and rhythms. Boundaries become optional. If God always has more for us (and perhaps then implicitly, more for us to do), then it becomes harder to justify rest and leisure and solitude. It is easy to justify more programming and more events and more things to take on. Listening becomes more arduous. And perhaps as Hunter concluded, doing ‘more’ for God can become the primary pursuit rather than God Himself.[1]

I had a challenging time connecting and making practical use of last week’s reading of Simple Habits in a Complex World.[2]After reading Newport and contemplating ‘more’ I realize that so much of what Berger and Johnston shared is dependent on one thing in my mind: margin.

Margin is required to ask different questions, take on multiple perspectives and see systems. These things simply cannot become habits or practices without margin or some whitespace. We need margin in our meeting agendas and calendars or these things simply cannot be practice. But a ‘more is more’ mentality erodes margin and can push us to overload.

Dr. Swenson’s book Margin was handed to me years ago. His definition is simple but was counterintuitive for me: Margin is the space between our load and our limits and is related to our reserves and resilience. It is a buffer, a leeway, a gap; the place we go to heal, to relate, to reflect, to recharge our batteries, to focus on the things that matter most.[3]

We understand this easier with finances. We know that if we spend 100% of our money we have to borrow or use our credit card when the tire has to unexpectedly be replaced. In other words, overload. When we choose to live to 100% every day and reserve no time or energy, we will surely experience overload. Margin, as I had previously thought, was not for laziness or Netflix-ing but is wise stewardship. It may have a home in a healthy theology of time. It protects the precious gift of time.

But if ‘more is more’ is our ministry and work philosophies, it is difficult to justify margin. I agree with Newport, more can be less.[4]It can mean less of what is most important.

How could we gain more margin in order to invest more wisely in our one precious life? For me, it is to think more critically about the gifts and dangers of the ‘more is more’ mentality and to ruthlessly deal with my technology clutter.

 


[1]Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, 285-6.

[2]Garvey Berger, Jennifer and Keith Johnston, Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015.

[3]Swenson, Richard A. Margin: How to Create the Emotional, Physical, Financial & Time Reserves You Need. Colorado Springs, CO, CO: NavPress, 1992.

[4]Newport, Cal. Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2019, 86.

About the Author

Andrea Lathrop

I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, a wife, mom and student. I live in West Palm Beach, Florida and I have been an executive pastor for the last 8+ years. I drink more coffee than I probably should every day.

11 responses to “Is More Really More?”

  1. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    I really appreciate that word: margin. I’ve preached on this concept without having a nice succinct word for it. The last city I pastored in wasn’t exactly small, but it still saw itself as small, and as a result, there were still people who knew how to live a bit more slowly. It meant when a stranger came to our church, people could invite them home for lunch. It meant that after school you could spontaneously grab a couple of other families and go to the park, or the beach. Or if you ran into some trouble, there were people available to help. I feel like much of Jesus’ ministry was responding spontaneously to occasions that arose because he didn’t have a crammed schedule. So how do we shift the culture in our churches? How do we help people create more margin and not just more Netflixing time? How do we model this better?

    • Andrea Lathrop says:

      Jenn – thank you for your response and your questions. I wonder about the same things and have always had a tricky relationship with margin, even the last few years as I have become more convinced I have struggled to practice it.

      Hospitality in our church communities takes some margin, doesn’t it? I usually go to practical and philosophical things to consider with these questions. Practical: If this is a practice we value (and I’m not saying it needs to be fancy or over-produced), then we will have to plan for it. Calendar it even though it may take a few attempts. I am unwilling to live otherwise without true friendships and community so it must be somewhat of a ‘big rock’ in our schedule. Philosophical: What do we want? What do we value? Are we clear on these things? Have we taken the time to start with the end in mind and the kind of life we want?

      Encouraging the precious people we serve with to consider the deeper/theoretical part of margin and the very practical implications too is probably where I’d start.

  2. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Moving analogy Andrea. Whenever I hear someone say “time is money” I often remind myself that Jesus didn’t teach everyone get rich quick schemes. So many of our books have been directing us to prioritize our time in a way that is healthy, faithful and pure. Grateful for your thoughts.

    • Andrea Lathrop says:

      Jacob – it’s interesting to think of what is real about that statement (time is money) when it comes to capitalism and needing to provide for those we love and what is false about it. So many of the sayings we question or don’t question are complicated and nuanced, aren’t they? Appreciate you!

  3. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thank you, Andrea. When I read posts like yours my heart and head want to retreat to our lake house (which the renters wouldn’t care for), take out a pen and paper and just do “old fashioned” writing, reflecting and sitting in the beauty and quiet…for the next ten years! Unfortunately, that isn’t reality for awhile. What we all have to find is a rhythm that builds margin into the craziness.

    What do you find you must give up in order to make space for margin?

  4. mm Sean Dean says:

    At my office we noticed that, because we are client based, we were only doing client work and never improving ourselves. This was fine for the bottom line but was eroding our relevance within our industry – which would eventually erode our bottom line. Our solution was to eliminate a day of client work each week – Fridays – and use that day to focus on things that would improve us as a company. I wonder why church or ministry staffs don’t do this sort of thing. You can only minister as much as you have been ministered to. I know there’s a sense that you’ll let down the congregation by not getting everything done, but maybe that’s a lesson for them as well. Nonetheless, I would suggest that this is a way that within the church we could find margin.

    Thanks for your post.

  5. Mario Hood says:

    Great post! I love this, “Margin is the space between our load and our limits and is related to our reserves and resilience. It is a buffer, a leeway, a gap; the place we go to heal, to relate, to reflect, to recharge our batteries, to focus on the things that matter most”.

    It would seem to me that we need to rediscover the 1st day mentality that God gave us… meaning that the 1st day humans experienced was a day of rest with God. God gives us margin as a 1st gift which is ultamily peace and rest in Godself.

  6. mm Mary Mims says:

    Andrea, when I read this, I think of Microsoft Word when I try to go outside of the set margins and a dialog box pops up asking me if I want to print outside of the margins. With this, I now realize what is missing in my life; margins. I may not have problems with digital media, but I do need to cut down on some other things and work with these margins. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Andrea Lathrop says:

      Mary, I think of the same thing and every time I read a book as well. I am so grateful the words don’t run to the edges – that there is space. I think I have yearned for space for a number of years – not tons, mind you but just a little more than I had. I have a little more now than I can remember and I am so deeply grateful.

  7. Digby Wilkinson says:

    In my second church, we decided that the best way to evaluate whether our ministry programmes and busyness was spiritually effective was to shut them all down and see what happened. It was a huge risk. To soften the blow, we called it a fallow year of rest. Worship services continued, the essential pastoral ministry continued and, unfortunately, Elders still met (but for prayer, not business). Guess what happened? Nothing, the church grew as it had the year before. It gave us a new margin from which to begin again.

  8. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Just realised I said nothing about your reflection on the book. Brain not working too well, but you cunningly segued so well to another book I didn’t notice you’d done so. Well done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *