Simple is Harder but Better

Apple tried hard to create simple products that were easy to use, controlling every aspect of the user interface in order to keep things simple. Thom Rainer says churches who focus on doing a few things well are more effective than churches who have a wide variety of programs.  Some of the best designers and decorators use minimal techniques.  A six-color logo is usually terrible.

But creating something that’s simple is difficult.  It’s easier to muddy up the menu than fight over the few links that really should be there.  It’s easier to let the committee add and add until the original is barely visible. Often times, we have to decide what we are intentionally going to leave out.  Only then can what remains be what’s important.

Leonardo DaVinci said simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

He was right.
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Lessons from a Half Marathon

On Thanksgiving Day, I ran a half-marathon.  I’ve NEVER run that far…in fact, the farthest I ran in preparation for this event was 5 miles.  My time was more in line with the length of a directors cut version of Avatar, but I finished.  Here are a few things I learned along the way:

  • If you need to stock up on winter clothes, just walk behind a marathon that begins in colder weather.  People were throwing off clothes left and right.
  • I didn’t feel prepared to run 13 miles, but I was determined to finish.  Sometimes you’re not fully-prepared, but you still have to make it happen.
  • Women on the corner yelling “wooooooo” junior high cheerleader style is flat out obnoxious.
  • I had to walk a little bit on miles 7, 8 and 9.  If slowing down helped me finish, then it was worth it.  And it’s not always feasible to go full speed all the time.
  • Eating wings and fries at Taco Mac the night before a half-marathon might not have been the best decision.  But they do have great wings.
  • The finish line of a race is one of the most encouraging environments I’ve ever seen.  Complete strangers urging complete strangers on.  I think the church should be more like that.
  • Funny audio books from Tina Fey can make the time go by a little faster. So does music from
  • As I crossed the finish line, I thought, “If I was running a marathon, I would only be half-way done.”  That’s so crazy to me.
  • I’ve started a lot of projects that went unfinished, so it felt good to start this and finish it.  In the future, I want to be as good at finishing something as I am at starting.
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Strategic Seasons of Growth

If you look at church attendance trends, you will begin to notice that attendance often grows and declines with the season.  While there are stand-alone high days (like Easter), and certain spikes or declines attributed to specific events (move to the movie theater or staff member leaving), it’s helpful to look at the year from the perspective of seasons.

Winter, spring, summer and fall. Spring is a growth season, while things remain alive but dormant in the winter.  And different seasons evoke different feelings.   Summer is laid back.  Fall is for football.  In the same way, your church has seasons.  Two of your prime growth seasons are probably January and back to school time.

However, it’s time to take this principle to the next level.

THE SERIES BEFORE THE SERIES

When your are doing a series where our people need to invite and where we are focusing on the Gospel, your should do a series BEFORE that on the mission of the church, personal evangelism, etc.  Tell our people during one series what is coming during the next series, and let the two things work together.

Instead of just marketing the A-game series,  take several weeks to fire up your people about the mission of the church.  Lead them to pray for their friends, challenge them to invite their neighbors and connect them with what is coming.

Connect Bible reading, prayer, or fasting, making the series a real time of preparation.  You’re preparing the soil, and spiritually leading your people to understand that they are missionaries.  Even baptizing people is prepping the soil, showing your church that you’re praying to see more of that in the coming weeks.

Instead of just advertising the coming series, connect what’s coming to our people, and inspire them to invite.  Not just with an announcement or a video or by providing an invite card, but with a sermon series designed to communicate the Biblical imperative of evangelism.

THE SERIES

An A-game series is a series that is focused on the Gospel…giving people the opportunity to cross the line of faith.  You should be prepared for hundreds of people to respond to the Gospel.  You should do the advertising and marketing things to get people there.  You should pull out extra stops with set design, graphics, creative elements, etc.

When you’re doing a key invite series with adults, sync with what’s happening with kids and students as well.  Consider bringing in a guest speaker.

THE SERIES AFTER THE SERIES

After a key-invite series,  be prepared to help people take a next step.  Follow up with an appropriate series on volunteering,  connectivity, or spiritual growth.  During this series, continue to reference the people who have recently become Christians.  Baptize people and tell their stories, celebrating the wins that just happened.  Take just as much time to celebrate as you did to prepare.

Understanding how seasons of growth work will build momentum in our church and provide us natural breaks and times to focus on discipleship and systems.

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Milk and Meat

God is love. That’s milk.
God is love, but God’s wrath is poured out on sinners. That’s meat.

Pray for the missionaries. That’s milk.
Live on mission. That’s meat.

Feel the Spirit. That’s milk.
Wrestle with the Trinity. That’s meat.

Be a kind person. That’s milk.
Sacrificially give and be a part of God’s mission. That’s meat.

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Two Questions Every Leader Must Ask

I believe there are two questions that every leader must ask himself all the time. These two questions should make it to team meetings and fill many of your discussions. Here they are.

Question #1: Why?

Why are we doing this? Why is it priced this way? Why do we just accept this as normal? Why do we do that on Tuesday? Why is it set up that way? Why do we use this system? Why does it have to cost that amount? Why are those people always invited?  Why do we have to sing songs at church?

Question #2: Why not?

Why can’t we offer that for free? Why don’t we charge $10 for VBS? Why don’t we invite that person? Why can’t we make it bigger? Why can’t we make it smaller? Why can’t we cancel it? Why can’t we start it now?  Why can’t a volunteer do that?

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