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Five Questions For: Dave Bruno, Author of The 100 Thing Challenge

Today I’m excited to introduce you, if you haven’t met, to a guy named Dave. Dave Bruno. Dave is the author of a new book, The 100 Thing Challenge. Dave and I met at Hutchmoot (The Rabbit Room retreat/conference/whatever) and spent a wonderful weekend not talking at all. He really regrets this as do, I’m sure, all those people who kept avoiding me the entire time.  Weird. (Actually we just didn’t get to connect and both hope to remedy that next time. There were so many wonderful people there. By that I don’t mean Aaron Roughton. I mean, Aaron was there, but…)

I think Dave has some real wisdom for us and I hope you’ll give his answers a read.

1. Tell us about how you got from to the 100 Thing Challenge and a little about yourself. I tell the story in chapter 2 of my book (plug, plug) about how I’m a reluctant entrepreneur. Sometimes I feel like a tired out labrador retriever who wouldn’t mind taking a long nap, but there’s always someone throwing sticks to fetch. It’s in my blood to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities, especially when it can bless people in the world.

Here’s a secret, I’m not personally a big fan of audiobooks. I’m a reader. I like to underline and write little notes in the margins. But when my buddy Cory Verner (now ChristianAudio’s president) approached me with the idea of starting a company to publish thoughtful Christian titles that had been overlooked as audiobooks, I couldn’t resist. There was a market need to fill and we’d bless people by being successful with the business. No brainer!

The whole ChristianAudio experience was great. My plan was to try to spend about 5 years growing the company and then sell it or my part of it to free myself up for “the next thing.” Well the next thing, the 100 Thing Challenge, came along 4 years into running ChristianAudio.

I’m a writer and a huge believer that average Americans need to pursue simplicity instead of affluence in order to generate economic and cultural wealth. When my crazy idea to live with only 100 person possessions turned into a worldwide movement and an opportunity to publish a book, there was no way I wasn’t going to fetch that stick.

2. What is the 100 Thing Challenge and wouldn’t the 101 Thing Challenge be just a bit better? Just one more thing; that’s all I need to make it “just a little better.” Right? Well, I think the 101 Thing Challenge — the Just One More Thing Challenge — would be a perfect match for what I call “American-style consumerism.” That’s the kind of consumerism that always wants to get more in the hopes of arriving at the dream life. The problem most of us have faced is that we’re always getting, but never getting there. It never stops. 101, 102, 103, and on and on.

So I conceived of the 100 Thing Challenge as a way to break free from the bondage American-style consumerism. My theory has been that if I remove myself from the routine of excessive consumption, my behavior would change. And it has! The “official” 100 Thing Challenge that I write about in my book has been over for a year now. But I still have about 100 personal possessions. I’m happy to say that I’m no longer a participant in the unending cycle of acquisition that used to characterize my consumer behavior.

The 100 Thing Challenge isn’t about “100.” It’s about helping people who feel stuck in stuff free themselves.

3. But Dave, things aren’t bad are they? Didn’t God make the world? Your book is a thing!? 🙂 Can you contrast your position with the dangers of Gnosticism (the body, pleasure is bad) and Asceticism (enlightenment, spiritual elevation comes from denial of food, pleasure, things!)? Sam, I think all of your readers should flee from Gnosticism . . . right to Barnes & Noble to buy my book. 😉 Seriously, though, I do have strong theological convictions here. There’s a lot to say about this. But I’ll just mention that Ecclesiastes was much on my mind during the 100 Thing Challenge. It says, “There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt.” Seems like riches are bad, right? But Ecclesiastes goes on to say, “Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them . . . this is the gift of God.”

That is the guiding principal, I think, where possessions are concerned. It’s all from God. Not just the things, but also our power to enjoy the things. American-style consumerism says that the things come from brands (preferably luxury brands) and the power to enjoy the things comes from within ourselves. That attitude doesn’t square with a Christian worldview.

4. The Bible is filled with admonishes not to envy, but politicians (“You have a right to what your neighbor has”) and advertisers (“Your life is incomplete without this thing I’m selling”) are continually working to encourage just that. How do you call on Christians to simplify, while making it clear that God does call some to the responsibility of greater wealth and all to contented thankfulness?

Well, God’s yet to call me to the responsibility pursuant to tens of millions of dollars, so I’m just guessing here. I do have a couple of thoughts, though.

First, fill your ears with admonishments that don’t encourage envy (and other vices). How? Ditch the TV. I wish I had more time to extol the glories of not owning a TV. Look, I truly believe that Christians are fighting a losing battle if they fill their minds with hours of television. It’s like a law of the universe: watch a lot of TV and you will succumb to American-style consumerism. It’s not worth it. Get rid of the TV.

Second, in America we’ve come to associate wealth with outward displays of affluence. But that’s not the biblical perspective. A Christian should be rich on the inside, regardless of outward display. Christians in American need to retrain themselves to not only believe this (we all say we believe it) but to actually act like we believe it. This cannot be theoretical. So I strongly believe most Christians in America should pursue simplicity for an extended period of time, a year or more. It’s the only way to deprogram ourselves from the consumer conditioning we’ve received and accepted. A life of simplicity leads to a life of contentment.

5. Any helpful tips for parents during Christmas on how to avoid (even with good intentions) training our kids to become slaves to envy/thanklessness/idolatry/selfishness etc.? Time. I’m really serious about this. Time. Put a five-year Christmas plan into action. Aim for this: after five years of a concerted effort to prioritize Jesus’ incarnation and family time and charity during the Christmas season, your children are glad to celebrate Christmas without being showered with consumer junk. Don’t try to “make a point” this Christmas. Parenting isn’t about making points every now and again. It’s about passing on a heritage of virtuous behavior and healthy emotions and strong faith to children. This takes time. That’s my main “tip.” Commit to training up your children over time.

And be gracious. They’re just kids. While they don’t need lots of junky toys, neither do they need lots of lectures. Celebrate Christmas with them.

Thanks so much, Dave.

Again, consider getting David’s book.

Note: Originally posted at my website, which is like The Rabbit Room, only dumb. -Sam


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