It seems like everywhere I go these days I hear about simplicity. The concept of simplicity is a buzzword, especially in the worlds of marketing and design. I see it in commercials for car dealers and read about it in articles written by branding professionals (marketing, not cattle). There are even whole books dedicated to the concept.
Simplicity is also one of the five key values that we use to filter decisions for 801South, but what does it mean? (The other four are Relationships, Reproducing, Unchurched, and Fun.)
There are several definitions and perspectives of simplicity, but perhaps the best definition for our context is the freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts; which I pulled from dictionary.com. Notice how simplicity is not the opposite of complexity. I’ve heard it explained that simplicity is the other side of complexity. Simplicity is a destination at which you arrive only after driving through much complexity. And the drive is hard work.
The natural trend in any organization (and life itself) is toward complexity, because it is so much easier to add than replace. For example, in the context of the local church, when someone wants to add a policy, ministry, or staff person, we typically say, “Great, let’s do it!” But often times we don’t spend adequate time considering all the implications this addition brings to the overall organization. So how do we avoid and fight complexity?
What about life in general? How many of you would say that life is simpler than it was five years ago? Ten years? If so, I would guess that you put in the hard work driving through complexity and were intentional to arrive at a simpler life. But for the rest of us, life is most definitely more complicated, because we’ve added (children, responsibilities, bills, expectations, land, etc.) without much thought toward giving anything up to accommodate what is added. We want it all and we want to do it all. And many of us can…for a while.
There are lots of layers to peel back when it comes to simplicity, but one of those layers is mission. If we take an example from the early church, we see a great illustration of the hard work required to arrive at simple. In Acts 15, the decision makers convene to discuss an issue facing the church. There were some who wanted to add a requirement to those joining The Way (technically they want to remove something–painfully). Finally James stands up for the mission. After much discussion, he says, “I conclude that we shouldn’t create problems for Gentiles (non-Jews) who turn to God.” He then suggests a short list of essentials: avoiding what has been sacrificed to/associated with idols, avoiding sexual immorality, avoiding eating meat from animals that have been strangled, and avoid consuming blood. (Personally, I’ve got the last couple mastered. I’ve been very successful in NOT drinking animal blood.) Peter and James both used the mission of the church to navigate toward simplicity while working through the complexity.
The simplicity of 801South–worship, community (small groups), and service–is part of its beauty. We strive not to have competing systems or ministries. The 801South Coaches are meeting regularly to take the drive through complexity together. (Off-roading is always more fun with a vehicle full of friends anyway.) Our goal is to arrive at simple and always fight to stay there.
How much time do you spend thinking about how to drive through the complexity to arrive at a simpler business, home, life?