Embracing Missional Frugality

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Perhaps you’re not familiar with the term missional.

Basically, to be missional is to adopt the stance of a missionary in all you do.

There’s a lot of buzz right now (at least back when I was able to keep up with the North American buzz) about the concept of churches becoming missional.

The call is for churches to do everything with intentionality in order to reach out to those around them.

What is frugality?

There are different ways to define frugality, but I think it’s something along the lines of:

  • A decision to live on less than you make
  • A commitment to exchange time for saving
  • Reducing excess

Introducing Missional Frugality

Missional frugality means that participants embrace frugality for reasons other than economic or lifestyle reasons.  They embrace frugality as a part of their Christian call.

Frugality is for a reason.  Frugality stems from their Christian faith.

Missional frugality means that decisions regarding the fruit of every harvest are evaluated in light of your call.  You seek to put as many resources as possible at the disposal of God’s good purposes.

A person who is missionally frugal will use funds created by frugality for giving to the church, supporting missionaries, supporting charities, or giving to those in need.  They will allow God to guide their spending so they spend their money with purpose for God’s glory.

Barriers to Missional Frugality

Any good work will find solid opposition.

You-Can-Afford-It Syndrome

Some people make spending decisions based solely on one criteria – “can I afford it?”  This means your spending is determined by your income and nothing else.  That’s why I have my doubts about what God thinks about the percentage budget.

Sometimes folks will chide, “Come on, Craig, surely you can afford it.”  “Well, actually I can, but I choose not to spend my money in that way.”

Something’s Off With Your Theology Attacks

There are those who automatically assume that if you don’t want to spend money on everything then you must have a misunderstanding of God’s economy or you must be some type of modern monk.

Truth is (I think) they probably feel judged by your actions and it’s a self defense mechanism.

I’ve seen it all the time with alcoholics.  When people start to break away from their drinking buddies, those ‘friends’ put on extra pressure to keep them ‘in the fold’.  The reason is the good choices of the one trying to quit are seen as a condemnation of the actions of the fellow drinkers.  They react by trying to keep the person drinking.

Obviously, there are some people who are so overwhelmed with guilt that they need to re-evaluate why God blesses his children.  Those who practice missional frugality do so out of calling, purpose, and love – not out of guilt.

The Man or Woman in the Mirror

When you make conscientious decisions towards frugality, you’ll often find the foe in the mirror convincing you that you deserve it.  You’ve worked hard for that money.  You got up early and stayed at work late.  You’ve sacrificed.  You know that money doesn’t come easily.  So why should the church or the missionary or the children’s home or the organization get your money?

Yes. God does intend for us to enjoy the bounty of his blessing.  However, God blesses us to bless others.

You’ll need to draw a line at some point and decide that your frugality is for the sake of God’s kingdom as much as it is for your own sake.

Alternative Forms of Frugality

There are hundreds of thousands of people who will adopt the title ‘frugal’.  However, there are also many different reasons WHY people adopt a frugal lifestyle.

Desired Lifestyle Frugality

To be honest, I naturally fall into this category.

If I had $400 cash in my pocket and I could book a room at the Fancy-Schmancy Luxury Hotel in Downtown XYZ, I’d probably still use an opaque booking website and get a hotel for $50.

It’s just in my blood.

Some people embrace the frugal life because they are happier living frugally.  They don’t desire the biggest and best.  They find all this stuff to be more cumbersome than helpful.

Those who are frugal because it is their desired lifestyle usually have the following characteristics:

  • Attracted towards at-home, do-it-yourself projects
  • Willing to do things that take a few extra minutes if there is an opportunity to save money
  • Usually have a more rural lifestyle, not urban
  • Love thrift shopping and getting a good deal
  • Often wonder what the difference is between being frugal and cheap

When I think of Desired Lifestyle Frugality, I think of Trent Hamm at the Simple Dollar.  He knows that frugality is what allows him to stay home with his kids and spend time with his family, so he uses frugality to help him achieve that lifestyle.

For a Season Frugality to Move on to Bigger and Better Things Frugality

Ever heard the phrase, “Live like no one else, so that you can live like no one else.”

In my opinion, this phrase seems to support the idea of being frugal in order to move on to bigger and better things.

One might drive a junk car so that she can pay off credit card debt, so that she can buy a new car, so that she can finally get that BMW and rub it in the face of anyone who ever made fun of her junk car.

Sure, that’s a little extreme, but some people are frugal just so they can get over a hump.  Frugality is a tool to help them reach an end goal.  Once the money trouble is over, goodbye frugality.

The Call

I’m calling your to prayerfully consider embracing a lifestyle of missional frugality.  Next Monday, Feb 28th, I’ll be releasing Transforming Your Financial Diet.  In that eBook, I’ll be teaching people the how’s and why’s of this type of lifestyle where Christians can practice this form of missional frugality.


  1. JMD says


    I do look forward to reading your book and reading what you have to say on this very important topic. I always think of that saying “live simply so others can simply live” and I am working on improving my frugality even more.

    PS Did I read a little while ago that there were earthquakes where you are now? If so, hope everything and everyone is doing well.

  2. says

    Great post, Craig!

    2 questions: I like the term “missional frugality.” Did you create that term/saying?

    May I have your permission to post this article on my blog?


    • says

      Yes, you are more than welcome to re-post this article on your blog. All I ask is that you include a link back to my website.

      As far as I know I created the term. I don’t remember reading it anywhere and when I Google missional frugality the related article is this one. However, with the billions of words that have been written I wouldn’t be surprised if someone once used the terms missional and frugality together.

  3. says

    Another reason for frugality: you don’t need all that stuff. Beyond getting a good deal, or keeping up with the Jones’, do you really need everyday silverware and a separate set of “nice” silverware to use only on special occasions? From a pro-environment standpoint, owning less also meanse conserving resources that would have otherwise been used to produce that $200 pair of shoes that you only wear once a year.

  4. says

    I think I fall into the first category. The interesting part, however, is that when I was younger (in elementary school), I wrote in my diary that I wanted to become rich (defined by $1,000,000) so that I could give money to others. Maybe I should get back to that.

  5. says

    I drop a leave a response when I especially enjoy a article on a site or I have something to add to the discussion. Usually it’s a result of the
    fire displayed in the post I read. And after this post Embracing
    Missional Frugality. I was actually moved enough
    to drop a leave a responsea response ;) I do have 2 questions for you if
    you usually do not mind. Could it be only me or does it give the
    impression like a few of these comments come across like coming from brain dead folks?
    :-P And, if you are posting on other social sites, I would like to keep up with you.

    Could you make a list the complete urls of all your social pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

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