Thursday, February 15, 2007

It Always Works

In the movie “Remember the Titans,” which everyone ought to see a few times, Denzel Washington plays black high school football coach Herman Boone, who is transferred to a newly integrated school and installed as the head coach over the previous (white) staff. Boone arranges for the former head coach to run the defense while he runs the offense and directs the overall team. When Boone shows up for the first meeting the other coaches remark how thin his offensive playbook is. He replies, “I run six plays, split-v. It’s like Novocain. Give it time, it always works.” In other words, do a few things and do them well.

When I lived in the Los Angeles area I became a fan of a very successful fast-food chain (In-n-Out) that is flourishing in the western states, a burger place with a cult-like following that serves only three things. No tacos, salads, chicken sandwiches, egg rolls, McRibs, chili, muffins, breakfast biscuits, pancakes, cookies, or Shrek-toys. Just great burgers (single, double, or triple, with or without cheese), fries and shakes/drinks made fresh to order. Do a few things and do them well.

Southwest airlines has flourished for forty years by flying one kind of plane (the 737), flying direct, and flying domestic. Do a few things and do them well.

I have been thinking of these examples as I read a book called “Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples” (by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger) which analyzes thriving churches and finds that they have remarkably simple ministry processes. Do a few things (worship God, make disciples, reach and serve the community) and do them well. Resist everything that pulls you away from or dilutes these things.

Simple works, friends. Simple is refreshing. Simple is powerful. The first spiritual discipline I preached on this year (I will preach on spiritual disciplines periodically through 2007) was simplicity. I hope you have taken the occasion to think about ways to simplify your life and clear space for God and the really important things. Simplify the clutter in your life. Focus on a few things and “do” them well. Down-size your spending and your schedule. It is a powerful step.

In Luke 4 Jesus is beginning to draw a lot of attention because of his teachings and healings. People try to convince him to stay in Capernaum, where there are many more needs to address. But Jesus replies, “I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (v. 43). Jesus could have been pulled in all kinds of different directions to good avail; people have a lot of legitimate needs. But he knew his main purpose.

That is the power of effective simplicity; it emanates from a strong sense of purpose. And that is why it is always a valuable exercise to ask ourselves, “Am I spending my best time and energy on what God has purposed me to do?”


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