I asked people on facebook to finish the following statement:
“Church is as simple as….”
Here are the responses I received.
- …Offering a meal, hospitality and good discussion.
- …Modeling Jesus
- …Building for Christian worship or whole body of Christians.
- …Kindness. Service. Hospitality. Empathy for others.
- …A dinner for strangers.
- …..Loving God and your neighbor.
- …Loving your neighbor
- …Following Jesus together
- …Being together in the presence of God
- …Conspicuous love
- …A thing you do, not a place you go
- …Being present
- …A walk through the woods
- …Love, but what a devil love can be!
- …Worshiping on a regular basis because of what he’s done for us
- ….Being with Christ at the center
- ….Breathing. Learning about, sharing and praising God and Jesus is life.
- ….Breaking bread together on our knees
- …Jesus, the people and I, changing and growing and becoming
- …Accepting God’s love
- …The believers coming together and living like Christ
I was struck by the simplicity of everyone’s answers. Virtually none of them had anything to do with buildings, professional clergy, worship services, charters, committees, polity, theology, or any of the other markers that we typically use to identify our faith communities.
It’s easy to make church too complicated.
I certainly did.
Even without a building or weekly worship, complexity is an easy trap to fall into. It may not have seemed this way publicly, but for me there was always a set of overlapping, sometimes contradictory set of missional models, grant-oriented benchmarks, theological convictions, and structural concerns that overlaid how I interacted with almost everyone. It was hard to keep track of all the important complexities that I added to my work.
If I was to do it over again, I would have closed most of my books, burnt my organizational flowcharts, and sprinted towards simplicity.
If church is complicated because…
You can’t find consensus on the right worship style or hymns,
You can’t figure out whether your vision fits into your denomination’s rules,
You can’t agree on a set of doctrinal or political statements that define who you are,
You can’t figure out how to successfully inhabit a committee structure,
You can’t decide on the best ways to keep your building open and your pastor paid,
That is the wrong type of complicated.
It’s the type of complicated that leaves everyone so busy, worried, and paralyzed that they forget to follow Jesus.
It’s the type of complicated that turns molehills into mountains. (Do you think anyone really cares whether you sing or don’t sing a praise song from 1996 or that you decided to rename all your committees?)
It’s the type of complicated that prevents the church from being the church.
As a couple people also pointed out to me, church is not always simple.
There’s a right type of complicated as well.
If church is complicated because…
You are struggling with how to forgive the person who wronged you,
You are still learning what it means to see those who are different than you as your brother and sister,
You are still discovering what it means to serve people before you expect them to serve you,
You are seeking to move from religious obligation to spiritual transformation,
That’s the right type of complicated.
It’s the type of complicated that makes you consider all your personal growing edges before you judge someone else’s.
It’s the type of complicated that draws you further into living a life that looks more like Jesus.
It’s the type of complicated that makes the church more the church.
It’s also the type of complicated that requires a lot of simplicity in order to embrace.
Here’s hoping that your faith community is simple (and complicated) in all right ways.
What Do You Think?
1) Complete this sentence! Church is as simple as….
2) Where should simplicity be embraced in faith communities? Where should complexity be embraced?