The Complexity Trap

There's a tendency within the tradition in which I pastor (the Bible Church movement) to think people are more likely to follow Jesus the more information they have. We've favored complex sermons, hoping to impart as much information as possible. The result has been pastors trying to cram 40 hours of study into a 30 minute sermon so that thousands and thousands of people can leave church with a notebook full of charts, graphs, outlines, and definitions of Greek words they can never pronounce.

Certainly, God has used this movement to affect many lives; I'm one of them who owes much of my spiritual growth to that movement. And, there's a reason I decided to pastor at a Bible Church. It isn't so much that I think the traditional Bible Church has done anything wrong. But I do think many of the pastors in our movement have mistaken depth for complexity.

We do this because (in no particular order) (1) We want to do justice to the passage we're teaching, (2) We want to accurately portray the awesomeness of God's Word, (3) We want people to see what we've seen in our study, (4) We want to justify our seminary degree.

Even though (most) of our motivations are completely pure, I would argue for a different goal. Instead of trying to convey the complexity of Scripture and stopping there, I think preachers would be better to aim for simplicity through complexity.

Our goal is to be Christ-followers in our entire life. When life happens, we don't have time to stop and consult our notebooks. Instead the pastor should dump as much personal study into the Scripture as possible, and allow the depth of his study to be reflected in the presentation of God's plain message to people.

We can't start and end with simplicity; otherwise our sermons will be shallow and lifeless. But ending with complexity doesn't take us any further; they are lifeless as well because they're almost completely inapplicable.

Our study has to be complex so that our message can be simple.