Chapter OneThe Simple Revolution
Out of complexity, find simplicity.
~ Albert Einstein
Relax. This book is not about another church model. If you
are a church leader, you have been exposed to plenty of
models. Most of them are on your shelf. Or worse, you have
blended a bunch of models into one schizophrenic plan. If that
is the case, neither you nor the people in your church are really
sure what your church is all about. We see it all the time.
Go ahead, let down your guard. No new program is going to
be pushed. There will be nothing new to add to your calendar.
If anything, you will be encouraged to eliminate some things,
to streamline. This book will help you design a simple process
of discipleship in your church. It will help you implement the
model you have chosen. It will help you simplify.
Keep your eyes on the words at the beginning of each chapter.
Four simple words. Clarity. Movement. Alignment. Focus. Those
four words will speak volumes before we conclude the book.
After hundreds of consultations with local churches and
a significant research project, we have concluded that church
leaders need to simplify. They are constantly asking, "How
can we make all this work? How can we put all the pieces
together?" Many of the church leaders we talk to are seeking an
escape from the not-so-simple life.
The Not So Simple Life
Pastor Rush is on his way home from a conference on church
ministry. He loved the time away, the challenging messages, and
the extended times of prayer and worship. But he hates how he
feels right now. The conference notebook sits on his lap filled
with all that he learned and all that he wants to do. He wants to
open it, but he can't. He wants to think about the future, but his
mind is filled with the details surrounding the rest of this week.
As the plane takes off, he only feels the weight of the
responsibilities that await him. Somewhere between ten thousand
and thirty thousand feet, he puts the notebook (and his
dreams) in his bag.
It is Wednesday afternoon. He feels a little guilty not being
at the weekly visitation program last night. He feels more
guilty for enjoying the night off. The Tuesday night visitation
program was his baby, his paramount program, when he came
to the church several years ago. It soon became the passion of
many people in the church. He is grateful those people caught
his passion and feels like a traitor for resenting the additional
night away from home.
Tonight, he has to (wishes he wanted to) lead the prayer
meeting at church. He tells himself he will share something
God taught him in a personal devotion. By doing so he will
have time to return some phone calls before the prayer meeting.
Experience tells him the messages on his desk and the e-mails on
his computer will be many. He knows they are already there.
The financial team is meeting after the prayer meeting,
so he will not be home until after 9:00. He does not lead the
meeting, but he needs to be there. Hopefully his kids will still
be awake when he gets home.
Tomorrow morning he is having breakfast with one of the
men on the church board. He does not know what it is about,
but he thinks it will only add more to his mounting list of
Then there is a staff meeting and maybe some hospital visits.
Tomorrow night he and his wife are in a small group. He
has recently encouraged everyone in the church to be in a small
group, and he wants to lead by example. He genuinely loves the
group when he gets there, and he wishes it did not feel burdensome.
He asked each staff person to be in a small group and
prays they don't feel the same way he does right now.
He has little work done on his message for the upcoming
Sunday morning worship services. He is in the middle of a
series on relationships. He taught on relating to your spouse last
week, and he longs to live out some of the practical principles
he shared: date nights, picnics, and so forth.
He wants to make that happen in some way this week.
Friday night could work. He commits to pass on the invitation
to attend one of the local high school sporting events. He
knows that will disappoint one of the board members who has
encouraged him to be more visible in the community.
Saturday afternoon, after his son's ball game, he will spend
much of the day on his message. It looks like another "Saturday
night special" is in store for the Sunday morning crowd.
This weekend he is going to speak on relating to lost neighbors.
He wishes he had some personal stories to share, but life
has just been so busy lately. He thinks of all the times he has
pulled into the garage after late nights at church or church-related
activities. He hasn't met the new couple two doors
down. He tells himself they just moved in a few weeks ago but
then remembers it was six months ago, at least.
He knows that if he is not relating to his neighbors and
inviting them to Christ and to church, he cannot ask his congregation
to do so. He wrestles with changing his message, but
he has already announced what he is going to preach. He shakes
his head and slumps a little lower in the seat.
He is tempted to witness to the person sitting next to him
on the plane just to get a personal story for his message-nothing
like a good airplane story to get a crowd going. He
rebukes himself for the improper motivation. The passenger is
asleep anyway. Must be nice.
Pastor Rush reaches back into his bag. He pushes the conference
notebook aside and grabs a legal pad.
He has the weekly staff meeting after his breakfast appointment.
This will be the only time he has to prepare for it. He
decides to keep it brief, jotting down only a few items to
discuss. He knows there are some staff issues that need to be
dealt with, but he does not have the time or emotional energy
to raise them.
He begins to think about his message for Sunday night
(which is different from Sunday morning). He has taken some
criticism lately for the quality of his Sunday night messages. He
understands why. They have been underdeveloped. He is trying
to work on them earlier in the week, taking some of the time
away from the Sunday morning message preparation.
This Sunday night there is a neighborhood block party. His
wife will go while he is at church. He thinks, At least one of us
knows our neighbors. Of course, people will wonder why she
was not at church. The tension is mounting. He slumps deeper
into the seat.
He knows there has to be a better way. He knows it and
continually admits it to himself and the Lord. But there is no
time to discover it (whatever it may be), much less time to putit into action.
Like other conferences, Pastor Rush was impressed but is
coming home almost depressed.
During these times, Pastor Rush has disciplined himself to
remember his calling into ministry. When he was in his early
twenties, he committed his life to vocational ministry. He mentally
goes back to those days when he wrestled with his career
God had given him an unquenchable passion for the church,
for the Word, and for people. He knew God had set him apart
to serve the church. He still does. He still has a deep burden.
The nagging in his heart to make disciples through the ministry
of the local church is still there. That conviction has not
wavered, only grown. But he knows so many things have been
placed beside it, even on top of it.
Yet, he is in this for people.
At thirty thousand feet Pastor Rush is thinking of people in
his church. He is praying and thinking. Some tough questions
are emerging. Are the people in his church being transformed?
Is his church making real disciples, the kind of disciples Jesus
made? Or is everyone just busy?
He glances over at the sleeping passenger next to him. On
his lap is the airline's magazine, and it is opened to a full-page
advertisement for a popular media device. The top of the
advertisement says Simple. Out of curiosity Pastor Rush pulls
the same magazine out of the seat pocket in front of him. He
finds the page to further examine the advertisement. It is interesting.
Simple sure sounds good.
Simple is in.
Complexity is out. Out of style at least.
Ironically people are hungry for simple because the world
has become much more complex. The amount of information
accessible to us is continually increasing. The ability to interact
with the entire world is now possible. Technology is consistently
advancing at a rapid pace.
The result is a complicated world with complex and busy
lives. And, in the midst of complexity, people want to find
simplicity. They long for it, seek it, pay for it, even dream of it.
Simple is in. Simple works. People respond to simple.
The simple revolution has begun.
Apple knows this.
They are pioneers of simple. They are a part of the revolution
against complexity, pushing it forward on the technological
front. Pick up an iPod and find one big button.
Connect it to your Apple desktop, and music automatically
downloads. Plug your printer cable into the USB port, and you
are ready to go. "Plug and play," the mantra of a computer generation
hungry for simple.
Even Apple's graphic design is simple. Look at the logo.
An apple with one color has replaced the former multicolored
apple. Their artwork on their products and in their stores is
subtle. Their cultlike followers are vocal missionaries to the
simplicity they offer. If you know someone with an Apple, you
know what we mean. You have been prodded to join Apple's
part in the simple revolution.
The iPod is a case study in action. If you are unfamiliar with
an iPod, it's a portable music or video device that can be listened
to with headphones or in a vehicle. It is the symbol of the
present generation and is simpler than any eight-track, cassette
player, or CD player. In an amazing coup that other companies
are admittedly mimicking, Apple was able to take advanced
technology and make it simple.
The outward design has only one circular button. It has four
touch points surrounding the circle and one touch point in the
middle, but it looks like one button. The iPod is more expensive
and offers less performance than many of the devices sold
by competitors, but it dominates the market. It is simple, and
people respond to it.
The iMac is further proof. The iMac is Apple's version of
a desktop computer. The attraction is that all the components
of a computer are consolidated into one. The monitor contains
the central processing unit, the speakers, the network and USB
ports, and the CD-ROM. It comes in a single box with a keyboard
and mouse. This simplicity makes the buying decision
easy. There is one choice.
It is simple to assemble because of the few parts. Since
Apple makes the software that comes with the iMac, there
is one number to call if something goes wrong. One decision.
One box. One contact. One price. Simple.
Google knows this.
Google is one of the fastest-growing companies in American
history. It has made sophisticated technology behind Internet
searching simple and speedy to users. The popularity of
Google has skyrocketed as Web users are flocking to use the
search engine. People love and respond to the simple look of
Google's search engine. Perhaps as much as 75 percent of all
Web searches are done on Google. They are in clear command
of the search market. For Google (and its investors), the simple
revolution has been very rewarding.
The amount of white space on their home page screams
simplicity. Click on google.com and only twenty to forty words
are found on their home page. That's it. It is simple taken to
a whole new level. If simple supersized were not an oxymoron,
we would use it here. Compare Google's look to other search
engines such as YAHOO! or MSN where users are confronted
with hundreds of words on the opening page.
Google keeps its search page simple for the sake of the user.
The philosophy behind the simplicity is that users are unable
to effectively process too much information, that too much
information is slow and cumbersome. Google believes users
should not be assaulted with information that is not relevant or
applicable to them.
Graphic designers know this.
Graphic art has reacted toward the complexity and clutter
of the postmodern era by embracing what some have called
"the new simplicity." Glance at some of the top graphic design
magazines such as I.D. or How, and you will see hints of the
Or just take a look at simple revolutionary John Maeda,
a leader in the graphic world. Maeda is a professor of design
at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1999, Esquire magazine
recognized him as one of the twenty-one most important
people for the twenty-first century. He is also the 2001 recipient
of the United States' highest career honor for design, the
National Design Award, and Japan's highest career honor, the
Mainichi Design Prize.
Not only is Maeda one of the world's most renowned
graphic designers; he is also an advocate of simple. He codirects
SIMPLICITY, an experimental research program at the Media
Lab at MIT. The research is designed to develop technology
that is simple to understand and operate. The goal of the project
is to help users break free from the intimidating complexity
and information overload of modern technology. It is a funded
revolt against complexity. Maeda also writes regularly on his
Web log, his online diary. The name of the Web log, as you
guessed, is simplicity.
Southwest Airlines know this.
Southwest is North America's most successful and profitable
airline. It is also the most simple. There are no assigned
seats, just groups. And the groups are based on the passenger's
arrival time. Food is minimal.
There are also no hubs. The planes fly the shortest distance
between two points. In other words, you won't be stopping in
Atlanta or Chicago on every flight. All of this simplicity saves
the passenger time and makes the company money.
Papa John's knows this.
Papa John's makes great pizza. According to the founder,
John Schnatter, the secret to the company's success has been its
simplicity. Look at this statement found on their Web site:
At Papa John's we have a simple formula for success:
Focus on one thing and try to do it better than
anyone else. By keeping the Papa John's menu simple,
we are able to focus on the quality of our product by
using only superior-quality ingredients.
People have embraced the simple menu and the simple
philosophy. What began as one store just over twenty years ago
has mushroomed into the third largest pizza franchise in the
Interior designers know this.
Real Simple is the name of a popular interior design magazine
and Web site (www.realsimple.com). People are responding
to the concept. Real Simple has been the most successful
magazine launch in a decade. The magazine promotes simple
interior design and instructs readers how to keep their house,
kitchen, and meals simple.
Even the king (or queen) of interior design, Martha Stewart,
knows simple. Not because she lived the simple life in a prison
cell but because she advocates simple design. Perfect and simple
are two words commonly heard on her program and seen in
At least, that is what our wives tell us. We don't claim to
know about Martha firsthand.
Marketing gurus know this.
Marketing and advertising executives are using simple
slogans and advertising pieces. You know that because you
have seen it. That is not all though. The revolution goes deeper
than that. They are marketing their products as solutions for
our complicated lives. The message is: "This product will simplify
your life." They know people respond to simple.
In a notable marketing book, Simplicity Marketing, Steven
Cristol and Peter Sealey teach executives to position their
products to promise customers a more simple life. They argue
that an effective brand will reduce the stress of the customer.
The value that many products offer is clutter reduction.
Take for example the marketing of the South Beach Diet.
The diet market is cluttered. New diets and weight-loss
strategies come along all the time, but South Beach promised
the potential dieter something other plans failed to deliver:
simplicity and less stress.
The founder and author of the South Beach Diet movement
explains the essence of his diet this way: "What started as a
part-time foray into the world of nutrition has led me to devise
a simple, medically-sound diet that works, without stress, for
a large percentage of those who try it." Did you see it? Simple
and stress-free. Besides a way for favorite desserts to actually be
sugar-free, what more could dieters ask for?
OK. By now you get the point. Simple is in. Simple works.
People respond to simple. But this book is directed to those passionate
about effective church ministry. Does this simple revolution
have any significance to churches and church leaders?