We hear from time to time, when discussing how to present the gospel to a non-believer or how to put together a sermon or Bible study, to make sure to, “Keep it simple.”
If the person continues to further explain, we hear that, if we “make things complicated,” people can get confused, reject our message, get lost in unimportant issues, not remember what we said, or fail to benefit from the teaching of God’s word and the Gospel message.
However, let’s take a moment to consider. What if “keeping it simple” is really distorting the message? What if our message isn’t really simple? What if the gospel is complex, rich, multifaceted, nuanced, far-reaching, and touching upon an infinite number of other aspects of life? What if the Bible isn’t really a simple book after all?
God’s word points us to its inspirer – the God who is beyond comprehension, beyond finding out, beyond our finite reasoning, and beyond all we can pull together!
What if “keeping it complicated” really did justice to the subject matter and “making it simple” misrepresents it? What if we can’t “keep” it simple because it never was simple to begin with? What if we’re not “making” it complicated but reflecting the truth as it really is?
Is this getting confusing yet?
I understand that there is a need to find ways to state things concisely and easily. Sometimes, you only have a few minutes to articulate what you believe to someone who really wants to hear. In those situations, a short booklet or concise message is the best vehicle for telling people the message of salvation.
But it’s one thing to have a concise message or read that booklet and say, “This is one way for me to express my faith in a concise way and there’s obviously more, but this is a helpful introduction.” It’s another thing to say, “There. That’s all there is to it.”
If I reflect on this tendency to “keep it simple” vs. “keep it complicated” from a missional perspective, I would have to say, “keeping it simple” hasn’t served the church all that well – at least, not lately.
Our world is complex and people know it. In fact, people love it. They reject simplistic answers to complex questions because those answers, in most cases, haven’t worked. Formulas haven’t helped them make relationships work. Short explanations haven’t helped them grapple with long problems. And the people who insist, “it’s really quite simple” seem to be out of touch with reality in some sense of the phrase.
More and more people wonder about the deep complexities of life and want to explore them. They long to see how seemingly unrelated topics intersect. They are not surprised by mysteries that keep unfolding, revealing more and more levels of wonder.
Maybe we should try to “keep it complicated” because God’s word and His gospel are complicated – not in the “confusing” sense of complicated but in the rich, beautiful, intellectually fulfilling, aesthetically pleasing, and awe-inspiring ways. I think it’s worth taking this seriously – both for the deepening of our faith and the challenging of the people who are searching for the richness and fullness that the Gospel can bring.
"What if “keeping it simple” is really distorting the message? What if our message isn’t really simple?"
"If I reflect on this tendency to “keep it simple” vs. “keep it complicated” from a missional perspective, I would have to say, “keeping it simple” hasn’t served the church all that well..."
"Our world is complex and people know it. In fact, people love it. They reject simplistic answers to complex questions because those answers, in most cases, haven’t worked."