With my love for gadgets and technology in general, you might not realize that I actually do appreciate “simple” things. My design aesthetic, for instance is simple, clean, and minimalistic. The buildings that I design for my “paying gig” are usually simple and elegant, with clean lines and simple materials. I never accessorize my vehicles, and prefer silver as it is the least distracting color for a vehicle and usually presents the form the best. I would rather have a bowl of plain vanilla ice-cream. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I want all the toppings – but I value simplicity more than complexity. There is an elegance in simplicity –  a purity – that I appreciate.

3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ. ( 2 Corinthians 11:3 ASV )

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what we’ve made of the gospel. I think we would all agree that the gospel is really simple – a loving God was not willing to leave us in our fallen-ness, so He sent His Son to suffer our shame, making it possible for us to be reconciled to God. Pretty simple.

Yet, we act as if it needs help to be understood. We may think this is not the case, but we act like it. With our high-tech “experiences” laden with electric guitars and loud drums, we hope to help the Gospel along. With our fancy lights and trendy graphics, we hope to help the Gospel along. With our cavernous buildings and our gilded halls, we hope to help the Gospel along. With our charming demeanor and well-crafted words, we (admit it) hope to help the Gospel along. (Edit:) This does not mean that a pious sense of “purity” with “traditional” forms gets us off the hook, because they can be just as complex – just older versions of the bells and bobbles.

I’m not forsaking our methods or decrying our efforts. But, more and more I hear people say, “I just couldn’t worship with that church’s (fill in the blank).” Have we conditioned people this way? Are we putting our hope, to get the job done, in our methods – or the incredibly simple, but profoundly transformational Gospel message. It is what compels the heart – not our bells and bobbles.

26 thoughts on “complex.simplicity”

  1. I go to an incredible church. In the four years I’ve been there, we’ve doubled from 800 to 1600. We’ve gone from two Sunday morning services on one campus to five services on two campuses and in November, will go to six services on three campuses. And we have all of the bells and whistles. We have lights and media and loud music and snazzy atmosphere and a coffee shop. But honestly, while those things may draw people in, that’s not what keeps them there. What keeps them there is that we have a pastor (and all of our leadership, actually) that love God and go out of their way to love and serve the people. Our pastor preaches the un-watered-down Word of God and isn’t afraid to give us a timely word of correction, yet loves us with a very Christlike, fatherly, heart of a shepherd. When I go to church, I may see the lights and hear the drums, but it’s the love of Jesus I see that keeps me coming back.

    1. That’s a great comment, Sarah, because it brings out the flip side of the community coin. Not only do leaders need to be careful of their motives, but so does everyone else. As we participate in the worship of our God in our holy places, may we all perceive and love the beauty of the center of it all.

  2. I too like clean and simple. I enjoy the bells and whistles, but you are spot on man. It’s what compels the heart.

    With our cavernous buildings and our gilded halls, we hope to help the Gospel along

    Isn’t it funny that we think we can help it along?

  3. I love simple but also at times all those things you mentioned. When I read your post I’m thinking we should be careful that all those extra things don’t distract the people, us, from the Truth. I’m just thinking out loud, not that I know anything.

  4. I am a simple man for sure. In reading this I was reminded of something that Craig Groeschel said at one point (I will paraphrase because I do not remember the exact quote)- He said – We insult the Holy Spirit when we think we need all the modern media experience to have a service that reaches people and shares the gospel. I believe this wholeheartedly – I think sometimes we do so much to make the simple truth of Gospel clear that we just cause distractions too it.

    Excellent thoughts today my friend!

    (whew I just remember to click the subscribe to comments so my inbox does not fill with replies 🙂 )

    1. I had to rescue this from the spam box – not sure why it was labeled spam!

      Anyway, excellent thoughts, Jim. We can go too far and make distractions – if we do not have the right motive and heart behind them.

  5. I agree with you that the more complex we make things, the more room there is for distraction. On the other side, I don’t think that the ones singing hymns with just a piano are more focused or “spiritual” than us with our drums, bass guitar, etc. or vice versa. We are expressing worship and service for God. If that’s not the motivation, there is definitely something wrong. Thanks for the heart-check, Herb.

    1. I agree, and I hope that I did not suggest that the form or lack of makes us any more or less spiritual – just that we can get caught up in the forms to the neglect of the simple beautiful gospel.

        1. I added the following text, to make it more clear:

          “(Edit:) This does not mean that a pious sense of “purity” with “traditional” forms gets us off the hook, because they can be just as complex – just older versions of the bells and bobbles.”

  6. I came from a church where the bells and whistles were missing. They were tied to tradition. I am now serving a community that has some bells and whistles but we still settle for the ordinary. We dress casual. We have drums (a one-armed phenomenal drummer who loves the Lord), guitar, bass and keyboard. A team of lead worshipers. But in it all we also have Communion and I am allowed, not begged, to preach the truth of the Word unhindered. While I do agree with you that sometimes we have allowed “the show” to overshadow the real “show” (God being glorified), we also need to strike a balance. Side: I know of a lady in a very traditional church who once said, “I will never worship in that building (a new multi-purpose one) because it does not have stained glass windows.” Aaahh, I think she misses it.

    1. I’m not suggesting we ditch the forms – whether “post-modern” or “traditional” – just that we don’t rely on them to “reveal” (a.k.a. clothe/obscure/replace) the Gospel.

  7. “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” 1 Corinthians 1:17

    Pretty simple…Bless ya bro’

  8. I’m the same way. Although I love technology, I like simplicity.

    But when it comes to God, I’m guilty of making everything complicated. I need to figure out why He loves me. Even worse, I sometimes think I need to earn His grace and forgiveness.

    I’m guilty. And I thank you for reminding me that today.


  9. This is so good Herb. I know I’ve been guilty in over-complicating the Gospel. I’ve argued doctrine and theology at the expense of learning to love.

    I now am part of a fellowship where Jesus is center and its all about relationships with each other. I’ve learned a lot from a community of believers that don’t over-complicate things, they just love Jesus and each other.

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