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Keep It Simple

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Years ago, I remember being told before I preached not to forget K. I. S. S. (Keep it Short Stupid). There are other versions I have heard though the years and the word stupid, I am sure, is no longer politcally correct (tongue firmly placed against cheek). It has been used more often to stand for Keep it Simple Stupid.  That is great advice for our lives, families, and churches.

All too often we fall prey to the “more is better” mantra thinking that the busier we are the more effective we will be. That is not necessarily so! Much has been written, and is being said, about simplifying our lives and making them less complex.  Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger have written Simple Church. Recently Bill Hybels released Simplify.

In Good to Great by Jim Collins he says, “Most of us lead busy but undisciplined lives. We have ever-expanding ‘to-do’ lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing—and doing more. And it rarely works.”  Dave Browning in Deliberate Simplicity says, “If the paradigm doesn’t work, executing the paradigm better actually makes it worse.”

While simplicity is needed, the reality is that simple is not easy and takes a lot of hard work. In the Leadership Journal, Angie Ward makes this clear, “Simple Church is a great, easy-to-understand concept that many churches need to hear. But the process implementing it is not all that simple. My fear is that the difficulty of the process will get lost on readers who are looking for a quick fix for their ministry.” She later says, “The philosophy is simple. The process is not!” Exactly!!!

Think about the word simple. It is actually quite complex with at least eleven definitions in the dictionary.

  • Simple is defined as easy to understand and deal with such as in a simple matter.
  • Simple is described as plain; not elaborate or artificial as in a simple style.
  • It means unadorned, not ornate or luxurious like a simple gown.
  • Simple is defined as not complicated and implies a simple design.
  • It can also mean singular, common, ordinary, and refers to the fundamentals. It can describe a simple way of life and refer to simple folk.

We need to think simple in our churches and ministries and here are a couple of guidelines:

  • First, make sure you present and handle the gospel well. The gospel must be handled carefully and correctly. It really is the simple plan of salvation but the doctrine of salvation must be covered well in explaining sin, repentance, and redemption. Every believer should be able to sit down with a pre-believer and show them God’s requirements on how to be born again. Every church should equip every member in how to biblically present the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sound theology is not complicated but it is imperative.
  • Second, have a clear vision of who your church is and why you exist. Be careful to focus on the 2-3 things you do well instead of the 50-60 you do so-so. The New Testament metric was loving God and loving others. Your church needs to stay centered (Love God More) through worship, it needs to stay connected (Love People More) through community, and it needs to stay concerned (Love More People) through outreach. It really is simple but it is not very easy.
  • Third, have a process of discipleship where everyone understands the next steps. What are those next steps and what do they look like? The early church was focused on relationships and did not have all the programs we think are essential today. There is nothing wrong with programs but are they producing disciples? It is easy to become bogged down with time-consuming activities that are tiring but not effective.

When focusing on keeping it simple it is good to remember Meyer’s Law which says, “It is a simple task to make things complex, but a complex task to make them simple.” It is easy to be complex and allow more and more frenetic activity to rule the day.

Keeping it simple requires:

  • A lot of prayer! In Deliberate Simplicity, Dave Browning says, “God has been extraordinarily gracious and kind to us, and if He were ever to withdraw His hand of blessing, our ministry would fall like a house of cards.” How true that is, and if we desire God’s direction we must spend time in our prayer closets seeking His face.
  • A lot of brain-storming and thinking! In Divine Mentor, Wayne Cordeiro describes prayer as thinking in the presence of God. There is a partnership between us and Him. There is no doubt that we cannot do it without Him but He has chosen to use us for His glory. We must work hard to cooperate with Him in where He is leading and working.
  • A lot of discipline and saying no! Keeping it simple requires a lot more time and attention. It requires meeting with staff and team leaders to make sure that everyone is on the same page protecting the vision. Praying together and planning together as a team can help to ensure that you are focused on working smarter and not just harder. We must keep asking, “What is the simplest thing that could possibly work?”

Here are a few more quotes to consider in your desire to keep it simple:

  • “In our increasingly complex world, nothing works more powerfully than simplicity.” – Howard Beckwith.
  • “The secret of concentration is elimination.” – Howard Hendricks.
  • “The real work isn’t acquisition. It is good reliable filtering.” – Eric Garland.

Keeping it simple means focusing on the crystal clear commands of Jesus Christ in Matt. 22:37-40, “He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Make sure you ask the following questions about your vision, values, ministries, and systems:

  • Is it easy to follow and understand?
  • Is it reproducible?
  • Is it transferable?