Tuesday, August 3, 2010

K.I.S.S.ing the Church

K.I.S.S. -- you probably recognize the acronym. It stands for "Keep It Simple Stupid." That much may be familiar, but do you know about the man who developed the acronym and all he accomplished?

KISS was first coined by Kelly Johnson (Clarence Leonard Johnson), an aircraft engineer and aeronautical innovator. Johnson led or contributed to the development of a number of aircraft including the P-80 Shooting Star, America's first operational jet fighter. He was the team leader of the Lockheed Skunk Works which was responsible for the design and development of the F-104 Starfighter and the secret reconnaissance planes U-2 and the SR-71 Blackbird. When the Blackbird was developed, it flew so high and so fast that it could not be intercepted or shot down.

Johnson's fourteen rules of management are built around the idea of keeping things simple and uncomplicated (which is amazing since he was involved in creating the most sophisticated aircraft of his time). One time he handed a team of design engineers a handful of tools and told them the jet aircraft they were developing must be repairable by an average mechanic in the field under combat conditions with only these (handful of) tools. Now that's keeping it simple!!

I concluded in my last blog with Einstein's maxim -- "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." Leonardo da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Antoine de Saint Exupery said, "It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

If we were to make church simple, if we were to reduce it to it's irreducible minimum, what would we have? I think we would have a group of people in whom Christ dwells focused on being disciples of Christ in the world. The Bible would be their curriculum. They would reveal Christ to others daily as they interact with them. They would be led by one of their own. Their desire would be to see others become disciples of Christ. Their tithes and offerings would be used for ministry to others.

Keeping church simple sounds like a desirable thing to do, but it's not as easy as it seems because we have come to expect certain things of church.

  • Many equate "church" with a building. A fellow I met this weekend said, "I am going to church with my fiancee, but it's not really a church. It meets in a school auditorium." To him, it wasn't a real church if it didn't have a building.
  • We want to be led by highly competent, professionally trained, full-time ministers. "Our pastor is bivocational," one lady told me. "We wanted a real pastor, but we couldn't afford one."
  • Many who attend church are product-oriented consumers of church who will swap churches because one has a better youth program or another a more dynamic music ministry.
  • Many are merely spectators of church. One acquaintance said to me, "I can watch one or two good services on TV. I don't need to go to church."

Church has become too much about facilities, professionalism, dynamic ministries and glitzy programming ... and less and less about disciple making.

Please, hear me. I am not an angry "outsider" casting stones at the church. I am a professionally trained minister with an earned doctorate that led a large congregation that had many ministries, a big church plant, a large staff and a budget bigger than UBA's today (and that was 22 years ago). I'm a loving "insider" who realizes that continuing to think of doing church this way as the only way we can do church is not going to reach our city for Christ. (Just read my previous blog and you'll see why.) We must find a way of starting churches -- lots of churches -- that focus primarily on making disciples without the complexity required by the traditional way of doing church.

At the heart and core of what it means to be church is the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. We are to make disciples and love one another. What could be more simple than that?