Simplicity is “The quality or condition of being easy to understand or do . . . of being plain or natural” – Google. As we work to establish Church of the Rock Calgary, I think this definition accurately expresses what we want as a church – a vision that’s “easy to understand and do” with a culture that’s relevant, “plain” and “natural”.
The importance and benefits of simplicity, not only in our ministry but also our personal life, were reinforced when we lived with the bare necessities for seven months this year. In January, after finishing our ministry at The Bridge in Medicine Hat, we stored most of our belongings and then left for Winnipeg to work at Church of the Rock with only what fit in our sedan and minivan. When we returned to Alberta and rented our Calgary house we still didn’t take everything with us. And somehow, even with a greatly reduced amount of “stuff,” we survived. In fact, it felt better to live leaner and realize we could still be comfortable with far fewer possessions.
Now that we’ve moved into our permanent residence we’re looking to get rid of a lot of things no longer needed so we can have a life that’s “easy to understand and participate in” – “plain” and “natural”.
In my quest for simplicity I’m studying two books – one that applies to church structure and is coincidentally called Simple Church (Thom S. Rainer & Eric Geiger, Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN, 2006) and another called Simplify that includes “106 ways to uncomplicate your life”(Paul Borthwick, Authentic Books, Colorado Springs, CO, 2007).
The message of both books is essentially the same – less is more.
For us church leaders, one of the key strategies outlined in Simple Church is to focus on doing what only truly fits our church vision – making choices that abandon everything that falls outside our ministry focus. This ensures church resources are channeled into a few key areas. It’s better to do some things well than to do many things poorly.
In Simplify Paul Borthwick writes that limiting our choices is key in our personal lives. He contends having too many choices in our modern age has left us paralyzed and stressed.
“Each person carries a backpack of choices. As we hike into life, we add more and more to that backpack – choices about which car to buy, who to marry, where to live, and which career to pursue. And on it goes. Gradually our backpacks become so overloaded that we tip over backwards onto them – our arms and legs flailing in the air like an overturned beetle trying to right itself. Eventually our only option is to dump some stuff.” (Simplify p. 10)
Paul and his wife Christie dumped “stuff” by trying to make choices that reflect:
A God-centred pace of life.
Proactive steps to manage their clutter.
A desire to simply their lives to become more purposeful and enjoyable.
The scriptural mandate to “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19) – to invest resources “in life rather than in possessions, in being rather than having.”
Focused lives. Similar to the Simple Church philosophy, Paul writes “Rather than fragment ourselves in a dozen different directions, we attempt to recognize both our opportunities and limitations and ask where we can make the greatest impact for God.”(pp. 18+19)
Throughout the remainder of Simplify, Paul shares his 106 suggestions for living such a focused, uncomplicated life (Simplify can be purchased at www.authenticbooks.com)
So, whether in our churches or personal lives, simplicity is the key to us being all God intended us to be and doing all He intended us to do.
In light of this, my question is, “What are the simple things you need to focus on in your church or ministry and what choices do you need to personally make so some of the stuff can be dumped from your life backpack?”
My hope is all of us will make wise decisions so we can enjoy the wonderful benefits of simplicity – “The quality or condition of being easy to understand or do . . . of being plain or natural.”
Ian Byrd is pastor of Church Of The Rock Calgary in Calgary, AB, as well as a member of the LifeLinks Apostolic Council.