The Hard Work of Simplicity

February 2, 2017

by Erin Bird

On January 9th, 2007, Steve Jobs stood on a stage and pulled out of his pocket the first-ever iPhone. Nowadays, touch-screen smartphones are everywhere. But ten years ago, the iPhone brought gasps and applause.

And controversy.

For instance, the phone only had one button on the front. How are you supposed to access everything with only one button?

Simple. Just use it.

I still remember handing my first iPhone over to a friend who had never seen one in person. He knew very little about this game-changing device. But within seconds, he figured out how to navigate around the operating system, and a few minutes later he handed it back, quite impressed with Apple's feat.

You see, the iPhone was so significant because it was so simple. Even three-year-olds could figure out how to operate this thing (much to the chagrin of parents everywhere).

But if you somehow managed to separate the screen from the back cover, you would discover that inside the iPhone was anything BUT simple. To keep the iPhone as simple and user-friendly as possible, Apple worked incredibly hard for years, as evidenced by the technology inside.

The iPhone of Churches

We are in a series here on the blog about The Riverwood Way. And this week, we talk about "Simple."

As I think about keeping Riverwood simple, I think how I would love to see Riverwood be like an iPhone. I want to see our approach to ministry be so simple, even non-church people can figure out how to be part of the Riverwood family and begin to follow Jesus.

I believe our pathway at Riverwood (Gather, Grow, Give, Go) is simple. I believe our Sunday mornings are fairly straight-forward. Even our message (It's all about Jesus) is intentionally simple.

But to keep things simple, it takes a lot of hard work. Leonardo DaVinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Recently, I was talking with Terry, one of our newer Riverwood attenders. He told me how much he loved the music, how much he got out of the messages, and just how friendly our church family was. He said it was so touching and refreshing in its simplicity - there was just something "authentic" about Riverwood.

After coming for a few weeks, Terry and his wife Jackie said they wanted to come early and help with set-up. (We gladly accepted their offer! They have been such a pleasure to work with on the set-up team.) But after the first-time of setting up, Terry told me, "I had no idea how much work went into all of this!"

You see, to keep Sundays as simple as possible for everyone so they can connect with Jesus, we work hard behind the scenes. A crew of people show up every Sunday to set-up. Jeff and I meet weekly to talk about the upcoming Sunday. Jeff prepares the music during the week while I spend hours on the message. We pour a lot into Sundays. This simplicity doesn't come easy.

But (to steal from Wartburg), I believe it's worth it. Because when someone connects with Jesus through the music and/or the message, we are seeing people move from spiritually disconnectedness toward Jesus.

The Simple Life

But this idea doesn't just apply to smartphones and Sundays. I think it's reflected in life.

Many of us long for "simplicity" in our everyday living. But to keep things simple, we have to work hard. We have to work hard to keep our house organized and cleaned. We have to work hard to keep our schedules simple (it means saying "no" to lots of good things).

And this applies to following Jesus. You might long for a simple relationship with Jesus - just you, your Bible, and His presence. And yet, it takes work to find the time, to have a reading plan, to remove distractions, etc.

But it's worth it. Keeping things simple is refreshing to the soul. We just have to realize it takes work to get there.

So let's dig in and do the hard work to keep ministry, as well as following Jesus, simple.

Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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Riverwood Church, Waverly Iowa

We are on a mission to help people love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.

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