Friday, September 21, 2007


There are two kinds of mystery: mystery in the sense of what is marvelous, and mystery in the sense of what is complicated.

A miracle is mysterious, but it is not complicated. The power comes directly from God to meet the need, instead of through a human middle-man, or natural means. A miracle may be startling, but it is simple. It is straightforward.

A detective gets involved in mysteries that are complicated. A theologian engages mysteries that are simple. Many church leaders present the things of God in the style of a detective, as if there is something quite complicated here that needs to be figured out. This leaves the impression that Christianity is hard work, instead of humble worship. More complicated, really, than marvelous.

Marvelous mystery is not bound by "10 Steps To..." or "12 Ways That" or "7 Principles Of..." Marvelous mystery is direct and immediate. It is God breaking in on the channel. It is angels singing to shepherds. It is bushes burning. It is a still, small voice. But without a doubt it is awesome.

The problem we experience with marvelous mystery is that we can't create it, control it or explain it. We can only wait on God for it. This is distasteful to many. We would much rather be pulling the strings, or else unravelling them.

When you keep it simple - deliberately simple - you are not forfeiting mystery in the least. You are simply opting for the form of mystery that is marvelous. You are open for miracles.


I remember well the first service I ever attended at CTK in Bellingham. The service started on time. The band began to play, and led an uninterrupted series of 5-6 songs. The pastor came up to pray, and then sat on a stool to speak. He spoke for 20-25 minutes in a clear and concise manner. The service closed with another song led by the band. There were no announcements. No “special” musical numbers. No comedy. No drama. No video. Yet it was extremely engaging. Almost startlingly so. The word of God was presented in a clear, compelling way with an obvious sensitivity to the unchurched. The service was done in an hour. Simplicity can mean having a very leisurely, but meaningful service.

It takes courage in today's ecclesiastical landscape to keep it simple. You must fight fear. Psychologists state that in our modern culture there's a "paranoia of omission." There's a sense that we have to cover all the bases. There's a fear that, if we don't have multiple attractions for people, that we might not be able to engage them. Deliberate simplicity requires faith that the gospel, simply presented, is sufficiently powerful and life changing.

No comments: