church faith leadership ministry

When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine at Church

I subscribed to Wired Magazine this year and have thoroughly enjoyed it. The most recent issue contains an article that has been influential in the way that I think about church ministry. I highly recommend that you read – The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine by Robert Capps.

Skype, netbooks, and mp3 audio are all examples that Capps uses to assert that more performance, power and fidelity are not always best. The thesis of Capps article is captured in this quote:

Entire markets have been transformed by products that trade power or fidelity for low price, flexibility, and convenience.
Erin Biba

I think that this has applications for the local church. Hollywood level production, high definition screens and handouts for every class are not necessary for people to grow in their faith. Spiritual disciplines are simple, free and can be practiced in many times and places. One difference is that the spiritual life is not one that is convenient. It takes commitment and may often be inconvenient.

What do you think about the article referenced above? What could the church learn from this thesis?

By Andrew Conard

Christian, husband, son, brother, homeowner

8 replies on “When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine at Church”

I think that revolution already happened in church music. We trade the power and fidelity of theological hymns for the low price of praise music, the flexibility of saying “alleluia” 18 times, and the convenience of not having to wrestle with the old-timey words and meanings.

We do both worlds, you see. We glam up worship and then sing “good enough” songs. If only we chose to do the exact opposite…

I guess I’m wondering what “Praise Songs” your talking about. Are you talking about “Might to save” who’s lyrics remind us of the transcendent power and majesty of God, or are you talking about “In Christ Alone” that reminds us of the radical nature of the incarnation? Perhaps your talking about “We Fall Down” that beautiful song that teaches us about what it means to be a radical follower of Jesus – with words straight from the scriptures.

The reality is that this false notion that praise songs lack theological depth was never accurate (Keith Green one of the originators of the movement was one of the most profoundly theological song writers who has ever lived). Today it is utterly false – most song writers are writing profound works of deeply theological and practical importance.

My guess is that the slam on praise songs has more to do with nostalgia among those who grew up in the church than it does any true theological critique. I love the hymns, but I can say with certainty that one of my favorite hymns “And Can It Be” is no more theologically profound that a song like “In Christ Alone” The only difference – is that more people can actually sing the latter.

So while I will agree Jeremy that there is “Power Power wonder working Power” In the old hymns. I’m equally convinced that today’s profoundly theological worship music can also “Open The Eyes of Our Hearts”

Great point about the spiritual disciplines. The key is that despite being simple and cheap, they are also powerful channels of grace.

The Gospel, in a nutshell, was meant for the simple and cheap, wasn’t it–if you think about Jesus’ audience? How this might translate over to ministry is that sometimes we can get caught in doing the big and spectacular… and underplay the essence of what we’re doing. Spiritual disciplines help keep us connected to the heart of it all–which you you’ve pointed out. The key to things like MP3s is that they have made things (in this case music) accessible. What can we do in our churches to help with accessibility?

Ryan – I know that I sometimes get caught in doing the big and spectacular. I think reminding people that it is not complicated (but difficult) to grow in God’s kingdom and equipping them to do so may be a way that the church can be helpful in making the gospel more accessible.

I certainly can see the point. I agree in that the gospel, especially Jesus’ gospel his emphasis was very accessible to all.(I agree Ryan Dunn). I recently taught a class in Russia where we showed beautiful examples of great visual impact with simple materials like candles and fabric transforming an everyday apartment into a house of worship. As I was looking at the picture examples we were going to use, it was very convincing and convicting. It’s less of what you use and more of how you use it I think.

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