4. Is your congregation–and its members–intentionally pursuing simplicity? My hunch is you’re not. My hunch is that church, for a lot of your members, is just another place in our cultural landscape where people are being asked to do more.
I think the absolute spiritual challenge of our age is related to simplicity. Taking intentional steps to slow down and pare down are crucial for paying attention to God. And there’s no other place where people are going to be asked to do that. Not at their work, not in their kids’ lives, not in the media they consume. Church has to be the place where that happens.
I was listening to a group of church members recently talk about what they thought was keeping their congregation from reaching their full potential. The consistent answer, stated variously, was that they needed more human resource. They didn’t have critical mass, or people with enough time, or enough staff. And several of them mentioned that church was getting less than their best because their jobs required too much of them. They perceived that the solution was more. More overworked, overstressed people just like themselves. It didn’t occur to them that the solution might be to simplify.
And while we can take many steps to make our personal and family lives more simple, we also need to make our church lives more simple. Congregations cannot do every good thing that is possible for them to do. My friend, Randy Harris, says that if you’re too busy, God didn’t get you there. And I think this applies to congregations as well. We do everything good we can think of without asking what is the one thing to which God is calling us.
And here’s the leading indicator that we’re still “if we build it they will come” churches. We spend an enormous amount of time and energy on Sunday mornings and have very little left for anything else. I’m trying not to sound like an old grumpy man here (fail), but the energy we expend on worship and classes is insane. We keep making things more and more complex.
So, is your church fostering practices and habits of simplicity. Do you have stories of people downsizing their lives? Have you learned to value the beauty of simplicity? Do you know the value of shorter congregational lists?
If you become this kind of church, you might not be the biggest in your corner of the world. But maybe you will have traded size for spiritual sanity, spectators for communities of practice and mission.