Simple Church 08 FOCUS: Saying No To Almost Everything

This is the last major chapter in their book, following this is one final smaller chapter on Becoming Simple and two appendix’s. Focus, where’s a cultural image we can all relate to that expresses focus? How about “SuperSize Me,” that guy had focus. For better and for worse he demonstrated that focus is costly, constant, and curious to those around you who don’t have it.

Not only did he demonstrat focus, but the video itself demonstrated how dangerous fast food can be. As tempting as it may be to desire all the options with imediate response, the reality is that sort of service does a diservice to your body, and when its turned into an ecclesial model of offering a million and one programs it can do diservice to your soul. Is this danger clear and present among the churches in America today? R & G say it is “There is an epidemic of fast-food spirituality among believers today. We like big spiritual menus with lots of options. And we want those options served to us fast. Many churches have become like fast-food establishements. A new idea emerges, and the menu is expanded.” As in chapters before this one, R & G lay a biblical foundation for focus in scripture by light allusions and quotations (Psalm 27:4; Phil 3:13-14; 1 Tim 4:7-8; Heb 12:1-2). They remind you and I what they explained to us in the beginning of the book, “you are a builder.” And building doesn’t end when you have clarity, movement, and alignment; you still need focus to finish it. “Focus is the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process.” 

In order to maintain focus five elements are needed: 1) you must eliminate nonessential programs; 2) limit adding more programs; 3) reduce special events; 4) ensure the process is easy to communicate; and 5) simple to understand. Lets look into the way R & G handle each of these;

  1. Eliminate: Eliminating things is going to be challenging along either neurological lines, interpersonal lines, or historical/tradition lines. If its so challenging and tedious why do it? Well R & G say its a matter of stewardship, “Eliminating programs that are not in the simple ministry process is choosing to be wise with the time and resources God has given. It matters to God. And it should matter to us.” The principle of stewardship is tied up in two ways for pastors – time and money. If you have endless amounts of programs that have nothing to do with your purpose statements they will require endless amounts of time administrating them which in turn pulls you away from your purpose/process. And lets face it programs cost money, whether that money is for staffing them or for facilitating them its costs. Eric, one of our authors, himself had to eliminate a tradition in his church that was good in itself but wasn’t great. Chip Ingram’s spin off book Good to Great is an additional place for reflection on this point. 
  2. Limit Adding: Not only do Simple Church pastors need to eliminate programs, they also need to be careful not to add more programs. The longer the process the less people are likely to move through it, and for R&G moving through the process is the number one way churches growth and health are to be weighed. LESS IS THE NEW MORE. We’ve all heard this line before, R&G say its the real deal. Leaders need to use existing programs to promote the process and integrate/align as much as possible into them. Instead of offering new programs, R&G say offer new options within existing programs. Whats the different you ask (I asked this as well)? “A new option is just an expansion of your present programming, and this is a big difference.” [I think R&G really need to make this point clearer in both a practical way as well as a theorhetical manner.]
  3. Reduce Special Events: R&G open this point up with an illustration from Michael Jordan’s life, Mr. Focus himself. Jordan was at a friends house and he needed to borrow some cloths – yes even Michael wears hand-me-downs if you can call them that 🙂 – Michael had given his friend a ton of Nike merch. When he went into his closet he found two clothing options – Nike he had got from Mike and Puma he had gotten from another athlete. Mike preceeded to destroy all the Puma gear in the middle of his friends living room and simply said to him. There are no inbetween’s either your for Nike or your against it. FOCUS REDUCE’S OTHER OPTIONS. Because the process is so essential to Simple Churches special events don’t occur often in Simple Churches because R&G say they pull focus off the main thing. If you have to have one then know this, there must be a “now what” the event leads to? Sequence is key…
  4. Easily Communicated: The process must be easy to communicate, part of the reason behind this is that the process must be “who you are” or it will not be central to “what you do.” Because communication is lead by the visible leaders in the church they must be able to articulate the purpose/process clearly and easily to all.
  5. Easy to Understand: If you’ve wondered like me why Simple Churches tend to have very breif and broad language in describing their process this last point is why. They want to be easily understood. “Simple church leaders ensure the people in the church can understand their process. Making your process understandable requires simple language and brevity.” So if your process reads like a short essay then there’s a problem, and if its breif but articulated in college and above language then there’s a problem as well because everyone from children to adults need to be able to grasp it.

Saying no is a big part of the Simple church revolution. Saying no is sexy! “Steve Jobs, the leader of Apple, said he is “as proud of the things they have not done as he is of the things they have done.” As a pastor in your church are you as proud of the programs you have done as your are of the programs you have not done??? Do you have focus, do you have the sort of leadership culture in your church that supports focus as an ongoing way of leading a Simple community?