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Simplistic, Complex and Simple

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

Dear Friends, A very important concept we discuss when I teach theology is the difference between these three categories that often are confused:

  • ​the ​simplistic​ 

  • the ​complex

  • ​the ​simple​

Simplistic is surface level, reductionary perceiving.  It misperceives unknowingly because it overlooks too much.  Simplistic misses out on profundity.

Example: The famous Bob Newhart clip of him (as a psychologist) telling his troubled patient (who had unwanted thoughts), "Stop it!  Just stop it!"  Likewise, when pastors tell hurting parishioners, “Just give it to God,” those pastors are being simplistic.

​​Complex​, by contrast,​ ​​is deep and overwhelming because it goes on and on.  The intricacies of Scripture,​ ​the vicissitudes of life, the relational dynamics between everyone and everyone is enormously complex. ​ It's not easy to wrap your mind around the mystery of any mystery, including the special mystery of yourself.  You yourself are a mystery as is God in Whose image you are made.  Thus that explains the complexity of theology and humanity and divinity and reality.  Examining the complex requires great patience.​

Example:  It's not easy to figure out how to feed the hungry in the world.   Political issues, farming, distribution, timing, economies, catastrophes, power plays, genetics, the need to give rest to blighted land— these and other issues all figure into the challenge.  Simplistically to say, "Just grow the food, distribute it, and feed people," is to echo a refrain of Bob Newhart.

Simple, however, lies on the other side of complexity.  Simple is sophisticated.  Simple distills the truth that Simplistic does not look for because Simplistic doesn’t bother with much detail.  Simple sees the forest; Complex sees the trees.  Simplistic doesn’t care about the difference.

Example:  Einstein’s theory of relativity is simple.  E = mc2  What a simple formula, but oh the depth and breadth of all it says.  Likewise, theologically the concept of the Trinity is simple.  Its simplicity is the opposite of simplistic.  Simple is Galatians 5:14,“The whole Law is fulfilled in one word in the statement:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

At Right On Mission, we start with “the simple” (please remember what this means) by prioritizing you in your uniqueness.  Everything begins with you getting your mission statement— a-not-so-easy-to-find, simple phrase of precision that is stated poetically in order to share the sound of your heaven-bound, human heartbeat. 

When I write mission statements, my job is to listen as people talk, share stories and recount revealing memories they have.  I sort through people’s musings and synthesize the sacredness of their wisdom and experiences with God.  In other words, I dive down under the realm of Simplistic and swim through the morass of people’s ramblings and recollections and endearing personal thoughts and go past the vast frontier of the Complex.  Then, Voila!  I come out on the other side with something Simple.   

Mission statements are simple.  They tell how a person works toward his or her vision.  Here are five that reveal five different people:

To urge all to let God guard us

To show people that something more is possible

To prepare people for Christ’s judgment

To launch others into wild success

To maneuver plays that speed God’s Kingdom forward

After chiseling out the statement, I compose a 1-page Write-Up that offers the complexity of a theological commentary on your mission.  I try to help you see that each and every word of your Life Mission Statement is loaded with in-depth meaning about the elements of your nuanced life.

Right On Mission is ready for more believers to come find out what their mission statement is.  It is such a special gift to give your family members and friends and those you minister to or maybe your senior pastor or entire church elder board.  All you have to do is:

  1. Visit our Book An Appointment to schedule a Life Mission Statement for yourself or,

  2. Visit our Online Store and surprise someone for their birthday or their graduation or post-quarantine-time gift.

Now for a closing test.  See below.  Circle whether the statement is simplistic, complex, or simple.

  1. Jesus Christ is Lord.  (simplistic, complex, or simple)

  2. People are either good or bad. (simplistic, complex, or simple)

  3. Although he was wealthy, he was still unhappy.  (simplistic, complex, or simple)

Hope you found this interesting and fun. Sarah Sumner, Ph.D., MBA President of Right On Mission

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