When did everything become so complicated?
I know — it’s an incredibly general use of the word “everything.” But from relationships to many of our devices we use, complexity seems to follow us wherever we go. For years now, I’ve pursued this idea of simplicity to its core. From giving away “stuff” that I don’t use (or need) to keeping conversations clear and simple, the idea of getting rid of unnecessary clutter in all aspects of my life has become a passion. OK... perhaps an obsession. It may be something small like taking nothing but a book on a flight, or even simplifying this column down to fewer words. But, many have said that less is more, and the longer I’m around, the more I believe that to be as true as anything else.
I can’t speak for everyone, but my experience tells me that many of us may not always be pursing simplicity, but it’s what we crave in our complex world. Whether it’s a clear job description at work, or the directions to build that IKEA cabinet, simplicity creates a clear, direct path to getting things done and making the most of what we’re given. When unnecessary clutter is removed, we then have a better chance of thinking clearer and moving forward. I’d go as far as to say we’re happier people when things are simplified.
I recently downloaded “Insanely Simple,” a book written by Ken Segall about how Apple’s obsession with simplicity has propelled them to where they are today. Steve Jobs (like him or not) was the driving force behind Apple becoming a leaner, more focused company that would constantly be looking for ways to simplify their products, processes, and teams. You walk into an Apple store today, and it’s obvious that Jobs’ fingerprint is all over Apple’s image. But Segall says that it’s not just Apple that craves simplicity, but that we all do. “When it comes to ordinary, everyday decisions, most life-forms agree: The simpler path is the far more attractive one.” Segall makes a great point that given the option, the simpler one is always the path more traveled.
Working in ministry has made me wonder how much we’ve taken such a beautiful, simple message in The Gospel, and added unnecessary layers that prevent others from truly engaging with it. The simple idea that God sent His Son to die for us, so that we could know Him and be in relationship with Him needs nothing added to it. That message in itself is a clear picture of that God is love, and He is willing to go to great lengths to show that to us. But are our congregations confused by complex programming, quirky ministry names, or even an unclear communication of The Gospel? Do our lives confuse people as we send mixed, complicated messages about who Jesus is, or what He is all about? While not all churches suffer from complexity, I’ve seen more than just a few who could use a tip or two from Apple.
As I try to get rid of the unnecessary clutter in my life, I also am trying to remember that “less is more” when it comes to the ways in which I live out my faith. Knowing God, loving Him, and in turn loving other people should be the clear, simple path that is not only attractive to me, but to others as well. Even His call on my life is not a complex one — but one of beauty, clarity, and simplicity.
• Colin Noonan is the director of youth ministries at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee. Keep the conversation going with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.