"Oh great!" I said as our car came to complete stop on the freeway. I was glad that we had given ourselves enough time to be at Heartland on time. Stacey's cell phone rang. It was the Zeeman's warning us that we might want to take a different route because there was a traffic jam on I-35. To late, we were already there. As we inched along the freeway, we could actually see the exit we wanted. We could have gotten out and walked to it faster than we were driving.
Congestion. It affects so many areas of life. When there is congestion inside of our car engines, it means that something is stopping the flow of air or fuel to the engine. If the drain will not drain, then there is a clog and it is time to get some drain cleaner or call a plumber. When there is congestion in our lungs, it means that there might be some sort of infection, or worse, pneumonia. Congestion in our circulatory system can lead to a stroke, heart failure, or some other life threatening condition. Prevention is always better than trying to clean congestion.
One of the classical spiritual disciplines is the discipline of simplicity. This runs counter to Western and American values which values accumulation. More is better in the eyes of many Westerners. It is interesting that many reformation leaders in church history were monks, which means that they also practiced the discipline of simplicity. Their minds, hearts, and lives were uncluttered by so many trappings of the world that could cloud a clearer vision of what God wants in our lives. Many of them witnessed many of these trappings in the institutional church of the day.
There is something to simplicity in all of life. Our Lord himself modeled this discipline. He laid it out clearly for any would-be disciples, "The birds have nests, the foxes have holes, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." In the environment of simplicity, spiritual growth and discipleship can flourish. This is another of many of the upside-down values of the Kingdom. Less is more and more is less.
Is simplicity modeled not only in our personal lives, but also in our church programs and church life? An abundance of activity does not equate to spiritual growth, life transformation, and discipleship. An abundance of activity can equate to an abundance of activity. The scandals of church leaders of busy, growing mega-churches are a testimony to this as well as the implosion of many seemingly dynamic and active churches. The ironic paradox is that in many cases, an over abundance of activity contributes to the problem of the congestion of the soul of many churches.
It is easier to prevent congestion than it is to cure congestion. Preventive measures in church programming includes beginning with a clear, commonly understood simple process of discipleship and transformation and rejecting anything that does not fit into it as congestion. All leaders, ministries, and members need to be aligned to the process. If not, congestion can develop, impeding transformation.