Thinking Little is what Jesus did when he spent his first thirty years in quiet, obscurity, obeying his parents in Nazareth. It’s why he spent his three-year ministry training 12 disciples, and confined himself to a small area, in order to change the world.
In 1970, the author Wendell Berry wrote an essay called “Think Little”. He argues that in order to sustain the Green Movement over the long-term, it can’t just be something we expect Big Thinkers in government to fix. It’s got to be dealt with by personal change in how we live. “For most of the history of this country [the USA] our motto, implied or spoken, has been Think Big. A better motto, and an essential one now, is Think Little”. P.54. By Think Little, he means we need to stop hiding behind general, vague slogans, and get specific. We need to build our marriages, care for a garden, and switch the lights off. There’s nothing Christian about the essay. But I love the basic idea.
“Don’t Think Big. Think Little.” I wish Christians would adopt this mindset.
This doesn’t sound obvious, at first, does it? As Christians, we have all kinds of reasons to Think Big. Our God is Big, after all. Isaiah tells us “the nations are like a drop from a bucket” to him (Isa 40:15). The Great Commission is Big; Jesus sends us out to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). The consequences are Big—people will spend an eternity in heaven and hell depending on how they respond to Jesus (John 3:16). Therefore, having big ambitions for Christ’s kingdom seems only natural. Surely, we want the little mustard seed to grow big (Matt 13:31-32)? Jesus is Saviour of the world (John 4:42).
But it’s precisely at this point that the danger of Thinking Big appears. It gets very hard to disentangle our promotion of Christ from self-promotion. Every Christian ministry knows this, if they’re honest. It’s scary how building platforms and “brand” have become part and parcel of our thinking. We feel the pull of the internet, and the size and scale of the audience it offers (especially among the young), and we’d love to harness it for Jesus Christ. But before we know it, our well-meant enthusiasm gets sucked into the hype of Big Thinking. Fads and bandwagons periodically roll through the Christian church. So-and-so becomes “the Next Big Thing”. The Think Big slogan doesn’t fit very well with the spirit of John the Baptist, who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).