By Mark A. Taylor
Is simplicity a biblical concept or just a cultural trend? As David Ray mentions this week, striving for simple was popular even when folks thought they could afford excess. Now, in a struggling economy, eliminating extras has often become necessary as well as trendy.
All this might suggest that talk about simplicity in the church is just another fad. Time will tell, but Thom Ranier and Eric Geiger wrote Simple Church before the poor economy hit the headlines. Their book, profiled this week, says simplicity is an idea that should last. David Browning agrees in Deliberate Simplicity, published by Zondervan this year.
“Many leaders are feeling overwhelmed and burned out by the bigger-is-better attractional model,” he said in an interview posted by Leadership Network. His Christ the King Community Church, International, with locations in 12 states and seven countries, achieves simplicity by following a simple rule: “Less Is More, and More Is Better.” The principle is fleshed out by six principles.
The first three explain how “less is more”:
Minimality—keep it simple.
Intentionality—keep it missional.
Reality—keep it real.
The last three describe how “more is better”:
“Mutility”—keep it cellular.
Velocity—keep it moving.
Scalability—keep it expanding.
A quote from his chapter on minimality illuminates its appeal:
In a Deliberately Simple church, we think big but act small. We keep asking, “What is the simplest thing that could possibly work?” We try to have just enough to facilitate our mission. Just enough money. Just enough time. Just enough leaders. Just enough space. Just enough advertising. We don’t want to stockpile assets. We want to have everything in motion for the kingdom. Often assets do double duty to maximize return on investment.
Appealing to the mandate in Matthew 28:18-20, Browning says the church’s simple mission is to make more disciples of Jesus Christ. The key for his church, he says, is its clarity of purpose and simplicity of operation. “We are rallying around a call from the heart of God. . . . God’s will is clearly the transformation of the world through the salvation of the lost.”
Like all principles, simplicity is best implemented after careful study of one’s own circumstances. This is more than just another method to copy. Church leaders can decide to focus on God’s priorities without creating a congregation that looks like Browning’s or those described by Ranier and Geiger.
But given the complexities of coping in the contemporary Western world, the idea of a simple church with an uncluttered calendar and a short list of priorities is too appealing not to at least consider.