The simple lifestyle has recently become trendy in the West. You can go on a mindfulness retreat and pay someone to take your cell phone away from you. The KonMari de-cluttering method claims we can change our lives by throwing out everything in our house that doesn’t give us joy. The tiny house movement advocates living in small houses for environmental consciousness and life simplification. On the more extreme fringe, you can take on the challenge of the “no spend year”.
This backlash against commercialism and excess—surely the archetypal #firstworldproblem—points to fundamental truths. We need to be liberated from noise and clutter. Perhaps our souls long to return to Eden, where fullness of life was simply working in the garden and wandering around unclothed with God. Perhaps there is power and beauty in the simple.
After all, many Kingdom truths are simple: That God is God is a simple but profound and life-altering truth. The Ten Commandments are not hard to understand. Loving and following Jesus is a simple idea (though not so easy in practice).
I’m not, of course, endorsing being simplistic or reductionist. Rather, Albert Einstein said, “Any fool can complicate things; it takes a genius to simplify them.” We see this in education and communication where ‘less’ is often ‘more’, for instance in a short but focused and impactful 15-minute TED Talk.
Jesus himself modelled stripping down to essentials. During His ministry on Earth, He didn’t call for any sophisticated structures, systems or practices. Rather, he simply modelled, walked and talked the Kingdom. He used simple storytelling to communicate profound truths. He gathered around himself ordinary people who would spark a movement that would change the world forever.
In the Global South Initiative (GSI), we are also moving towards the simple. There can be power and beauty in the simple business idea. For instance, a simple provision shop that sells basic necessities can be more sustainable and impactful than a café serving glamorous coffee. Running an exercise class in your living room could be a reliable source of income as well as a great way to form relationships.
Why is GSI so keen on simple ideas? Simple is often strong. The simple but sound business idea is often less risky than the fancy, complicated one. Keeping things simple keeps us focused and avoid distracting busyness. Simple business ideas can be implemented by any missionary wherever they go.
This Article was written by SeangPin Saw, a GSI Team member, and first appeared in the June 2017 edition of OM's Director's Update.