Simplify by Bill Hybels + Q&A With @BillHybels

by | Oct 1, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

I’ll be the absolute first person to admit, most of the time I have way too much going on.

Everything about my life is measured out and time is the most valuable of currency to me. When I pile task on top of task, I am constantly running from one thing to the next. Workout with friends. Volunteering at church. Working my full-time job. Date-night with my wife. Reading the Word. That’s how things end up being prioritized, isn’t it? The most important things slowly move to the back burner as you make room for what is actually less important.

If you’re resonating with rushed, overbooked lifestyle that I’m hinting at than you’ll totally appreciate Bill Hybels new book — Simplify.

simplify bill hybelsKeeping with the simple theme of the book, Simplify, Hybels lays out an easily traceable discussion through what bogs down the typical person. The practical application points are what follows: Overscheduled; Overwhelmed; Restless; Wounded; Anxious; Isolated; Drifting; Stuck; Meaningless. At it’s core, this book is less about cleaning off the calendar and more about cleaning out your closet. Get rid of all the stuff that weighs you down so that you can freely run the race that is marked out for you.

And the ten chapters in Simplify are written, well, simply. They are step-by-step guides to recognizing and overcoming the hurdles that have wrecked so many of us. While the discussion of this book is easily read and just as simply applied, my biggest drawback is how infrequently Hybels directly quotes Scripture and brings us back to the freedom found in the Gospel message. That is not to say that the points are not soaked in Biblical truths, but outside of the discussion of determining one’s life-verse there are not many direct references to God’s Word considering that this book weighs in at just over 300 pages.

Like I said, Simplify is solid, should be considered respectable, and is utterly applicable.

Q&A to follow description
Getting caught up in the busyness of life, with its clutter and its crazy pace, can harm relationships, jobs, sanity, and health. But how can one simplify life by letting go of anxiety and spending time on the most important things? Influential pastor Bill Hybels (Too Busy Not to Pray), founder of Willow Creek Community Church, gently but firmly points out common stress-inducing topics and offers ways of coping with them that are alternatives to the typical frenetic response. Among those topics are over-scheduling, forgiveness, finances, anxiety, and the workplace. He likens personal fulfillment to an “energy bucket.” That bucket is filled when people are happy at work, but leaks profusely when individuals are miserable. Those unhappy with work should consider leaving it to do something enjoyable, and work around the financial aspects. “Simplicity cannot be achieved without clarity about the big-picture target of your life,” Hybels says. Instead of cluttering the calendar with things that have to be done in the next 30 days, he suggests asking, “Who do I want to become in this next season of my life?” and then using the calendar to help accomplish those goals. Readers who are ready to take somewhat drastic measures to simplify their lives will be ready to implement all 10 of Hybels’ practices, while others may need to pick which ones are the most immediately doable and tackle the others when they’re ready. (Publishers Weekly)

Simplify is written in the same conversational tone that Pastor Hybels uses for his popular sermons that draw nearly 20,000 people a week to church. This engaging format, coupled with his practical, life-changing steps, makes this book a must-read. If you think, like most people, that one book couldn’t possibly impact your overscheduled life, think again. Here, Hybels identifies core issues that we often choose to ignore—issues that, if addressed in the manner he suggests, have the potential to promote health, a clearer purpose, unprecedented joy, financial security, solid relationships and, above all, a fulfilled relationship with God.

Simplify isn’t about purging appointments from your calendar—it’s about rethinking your priorities and living the life God promised us in John 10:10: “I have come to give you life, life in all its fullness.

Q &A with Bill Hybels, author of Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul

  • Bill, what led you to write a book on the necessity of simplifying your life?

I’ve been in ministry for almost 40 years now, and the decades have given me a perspective I hope might be helpful to others. The years give me the ability to look in the rear view mirror of my life and note how decisions I made early on produced surprisingly significant fruit in my life.

Those decisions to live a more simplified, focused life are among the ones for which I am most grateful. Protecting four nights a week as family nights when the kids were little turned out to be much more fruitful than I could have realized at the time. Keeping my finances in order, my relationships in good repair, my energy tank filled, etc.—these small commitments have given me the gift of living my life more fully, more in tune with God’s leading, and more in line with who He created me to be. I hope and pray that Simplify can help readers make similar commitments to simplify their own lives—and achieve similar outcomes.


  • You devote significant time each year to coaching and mentoring leaders both in the United States and around the world, and you note in Simplify that exhaustion, overscheduling and anxiety is a “global issue.” What factors do you believe are causing pastors and other leaders to experience burnout at such an increasing rate?

One factor would probably be the increased availability to technology that keeps us hooked to work 24-7, if we are not careful. In many ways, the world has gotten smaller with the advent of social media, Internet news media outlets, etc. For those of us who work in the local church or in the non-profit sector, our increased awareness of heart-wrenching problems in the world can’t help but increase our pulse rates and our desires to increase our impact at bringing compassion and justice to those who need it most. We cannot bring the hope of Christ to everyone who needs it by ourselves. But when we unclutter in our souls by simplifying our lives, we create enough space to ask the all-important question, “What is mine to do?” And we create enough margin in our lives to do it.


  • You’ve said that simplified living is about more than “doing less.” Can you elaborate on that? 

For me, simplified living is about choosing strategic neglect. We must be intentional about saying no to certain things in order to say yes to things that are more important to us. Life will readily fill our schedules as soon as we loosen the filter on what things we agree to commit time to. By being strategic in neglecting the things that are of lesser value in our lives, we create margin to say yes to the things that matter most, which is simplified living in the purest sense.


  • Your new book offers action steps designed to help readers “unclutter their souls.” What do you mean by that?

It’s easy to think that by being better organized at home and at work, we will then have the time and energy to do those things we sense in our souls are the most important things to do. But it’s a fallacy. The clutter that creates the biggest barrier in our lives isn’t in our garages or desk drawers or computer desktops; it’s in our souls. It’s the fractured relationships, the misalignments in our work lives, the overwhelming brokenness of our finances, the crippling fears we’ve never addressed—these are the things that hold us hostage and keep us from doing the things that matter most, and becoming who God designed us to be.

Simplify includes action steps at the end of each chapter because it’s not a book designed to increase your knowledge about simplified living; it’s a book designed to help you actually simplify your life. My hope is that each reader would set aside time to truly address each chapter’s topic in a personal way, assessing his or her own life and taking steps to simplify in each area. It’s the doing that will bring about change.


  • Can you describe your own personal wake-up call that led to a radical change in your determination never to get to the edge of depletion again?

In the early pages of Simplify, I describe a quick interaction I had with my daughter, Shauna, who was just three years old at the time. I was rushing off to yet another evening meeting at church, and she stopped me at the door with the simple question, “Are you going out again tonight, Daddy?” Again tonight. Her words weren’t said with malice. It was just her innocent curiosity. And it leveled me. Yes, I was going out again tonight because a meeting was on my calendar.

This began some much-needed soul searching about how I schedule my time. The next morning in my time with God, I began sketching out a schedule that reflected what my use of time would look like if He were in charge. It was a turning point for me. I began using my calendar holistically, scheduling not just meetings, but values. Today, when I consider what to write in the squares of my calendar, I don’t just ask the question, “What do I want to do?” I ask the question, “Who do I want to become?” My calendar is the most powerful tool in my toolbox when it comes to developing my character and achieving the things that are most important in my life.


  • You’ve said that engaging in activities that replenish the soul is an individual’s personal responsibility – not their boss’s, board’s or spouse’s. What patches the holes in your own bucket?

My annual commitment to scheduling family vacations ahead of time has been a major “hole patcher” for me. It’s a habit I encourage our staff to adopt, as well. Over Christmas vacation each year, my family and I strategically plan which weeks or weekends we will take as vacation days in the year to come—and we write them on our respective calendars, in ink. Then we protect those dates throughout the year. In the church world, certain seasons will be crazy busy, no matter how hard I try to keep my schedule sane. Christmas, Easter, building-campaign seasons—they simply take time. But I always plan down time as a family following these seasons. I would tell the kids when they were little, “We’re gonna take revenge after Christmas,” and we would look forward to those unforgettable days together after a busy season. Every type of work has its busy seasons, and we do well to plan to take a little revenge afterward. It helps sustain us during those busy days—and it helps replenish us afterward.

A second replenisher for me is my commitment to recreation. I can’t say enough about the value of recreation and play when it comes to leading a simplified life. Early on in my role as a pastor, I felt guilty about taking time for myself because there was always more work to be done, and the eternal ramifications of ministry compelled me toward overwork.

A Christian counselor helped me right-size my understanding of recreation when he explained how operating from an empty tank left me with nothing to give—to my family or to my work in the local church. He challenged me to find life-giving activities that would replenish my soul and leave me fully charged so I could offer my best to my family, friends, and work. I took up sailing because water has always been life-giving for me, and working hard with a team of fellow sailors recharges me in ways that nothing else does.


  • Recreation is a replenisher for many, but in your early years of ministry at Willow Creek it became a problem area. How so? 

Few things are as all-consuming as starting a church—which is what I was doing in the early years of ministry. It would be easy to blame my overworking tendencies on the demands of the role I played as the senior pastor in that endeavor.

But in reality, my overwork was an extension of the family culture I grew up in. My dad was a tremendously hard-working man, a successful business owner running a complex organization. He passed on a strong work ethic to each of us kids—but he didn’t model balance in this area. He was gone a lot, he worked long hours, and I never knew differently.

For me, overworking was the norm from which I needed to recalibrate my life. Becoming a parent and my wake-up call when my daughter was three caused me to begin asking, “Who do I want to become?” And overworking didn’t fit my vision for a well-balanced life that was fruitful in the areas that mattered most to me. I needed to address my propensity for overworking—and I began at that time to limit my work by scheduling the value-driven commitments like family and recreation into my life. It made all the difference, and ironically it made me a better worker in the long run.


  • You write that you’ve been doing a “Hybels version” of the Paleo diet and the difference in your energy levels has been striking. Tell us about that.

Because my dad and other Hybels’ men have died young of heart disease, I am attentive to eating well and exercise. My wife and I eat whole foods—and raw foods—as much as possible. I am committed to cardiovascular exercise and strength training (I run and lift weights) on a regular basis. And these two factors have a tremendously positive impact on my energy levels. When I slip up and neglect my diet or exercise, I can feel a difference in my energy levels right away. The time it takes to eat well and take care of myself physically pays big dividends.

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