Simple Church | Chapter 1

simple-complexStarting today and ending on October 15th, I’m going to be involved in a group blogging project around the book Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. Each day one person is going to be leading the discussion based on each of the 9 chapters of the book. For more information, click here.

I get to start the fun with Chapter 1.

The first sentence of the book is actually one word. “Relax”

I wonder how many people who are deeply involved in the day to day runnings of “any church, USA” have built in time to “Relax.” I must admit, that I had heard about the book before jumping into it. I knew a little of what to expect. However I remember taking pause with the first word; the first word struck me as an interesting way to begin. Relax

Thom and Eric then go on to defend that they do not intend to present a new model or program for improving local churches. They want to present observations of churches that seem to be thriving and growing. They make it clear that becoming “simple”:

  1. Does Not Change Doctrine or Conviction
  2. Not the thing to do just to be in style or “culturally hip.”
  3. Don’t become simple just for pragmatic reasons (although… it does seem to work)
  4. Becoming Simple is not Easy. Don’t expect “Easy”

The statistics are pretty overwhelming. Churches with a simple process for reaching and maturing people are expanding the kingdom, making disciples, and advancing the movement of the gospel. Complex churches are struggling and anemic. Cluttered and not growing. Overprogrammed and busy.

Jesus came and attacked cluttered and complex religion and simplified it. He taught that his grace offered a simple relationship with God. He wanted us to replace tiring, heavy burden religion with his yoke. And when the simple message of Christ was talked about with those who were gathering to hear the message, lives changed. Revival Happened.

I recently heard a sermon by Perry Noble from NewSpring church where Perry talked about how confused he was when churches scheduled “Revivals.” He talked about how weird he thought it was that churches would plan for the “third week in September” to have a revival so that they could see the hand of God move. Perry mentioned that nowhere in the Bible did early Christians “plan a revival.” They had a mission. They knew that mission. They did not allow complexity to get in the way of that mission.

Take this concept to every ministry of your local church. While we’re supposed to be unified with a simple mission in place, we often are disconnected and acting as individual parts instead of seeing the big picture of working together towards that simple mission.

It is interesting how organizations are always drifting towards complexity. This is why it is absolutely necessary for leadership to define the process for members. The book Simple Church really comes down to looking at the process that simple churches follow. I wish I could define it here…but I’ll hold and wait for Adam Shields to cover it in chapter 3 on Wednesday. When the process is clearly defined, people can embrace the process and pursue only that which leads to the greater mission.

So… Looking for ideas for those of us who find ourselves leaning more towards complexity than simplicity. Go.


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16 thoughts on “Simple Church | Chapter 1

  1. Awesome. I think organizations tend toward complexity because *people* tend toward complexity.

    A simple church starts with simple people.

    The list talks a lot about what Simple *isn't* which is important, because simple is, by definition, *not* almost everything. It's just a lot harder to figure out what simple *is*

    • Agreed. People move toward complexity. Always nice to have that coach hitting you with fundamentals and discipline. (oops did I use the ‘d’ word?)

  2. Great way to start off this "series". Definitely will be insightful and interesting to read. One question that I have wrestled with throughout this last year is "simply", "does less = simple?" ie can a highly programmed church still be simple? I think the immediate tendency is to start cutting, hacking, etc,etc. Personally my hunch is that less is more, but I don't think that less is necessarily the "solution" that many reach for and pursue as soon as they start reading this book. (I realize this can depend on what area of the church you are talking about, values, mission statements, vs programming, courses, etc) Anyways, just some initial thoughts and questions and our church is still very much in the process of figuring all that out. 🙂 So many opinions on "simple", that its gotten complicated already, lol. 🙂 Thanks for starting the conversation Andy!

    • I think that a highly programmed church CAN be simple. I think that what we see today are churches with a lot of programs but no clarification to how those programs work together.

      Taking my particular church for example. We have a good sports program that gets folks on the campus. Not real sure that we have a clear method for moving those folks into our Sunday mornings. This is something that we need to wrestle with.

      I guess the process has to be defined no matter the size of the church. I’ve seen large churches that operate like a well tuned machine, but have seen large churches that can’t communicate what ministry and volunteer needs are. At the same time, I’ve been part of groups of 10 people that don’t clearly communicate to each other.

    • That's a good point Darren. This is a tension that I am dealing with too. For me, this book really helped me to begin to evaluate why we are doing what we are doing and to examine if are we duplicating in our ministries. ie. several ministries attempting to accomplish the same thing. Lots to think about and I am looking forward to the discussion!

  3. Churches are about people coming together in worship, service and fellowship.
    People should be our focus first and the programs that support those people second. I have fallen into the trap of so much service that I lost sight of the people in need around me. Jesus taught and preached but always went to those in need. I think we can get caught up in the methods and forget the basics…. people are fluid by nature and their needs change and so should the Church.

  4. To me the key statement of chapter one is this: "Churches without a process or with a complicated process for making disciples are floundering" (page 14). This is key because 1) it is true and truer than many churches would like to admit or even have the ability to see and 2) this keeps the notion of this book from simply being about simplification. Without understanding how or even why we are to make disciples, then simple or complex will not matter in the end.

    I also think that the authors get at an undercurrent of American spirituality: busy in the church/ministry = spiritual maturity (thinking of this comment on page 20: "Often great amounts of activity do not produce life change"). Maturity comes from heart change brought by growing in the Gospel on a daily/regular basis. That will require commitment (and service) to be sure, but Gospel intentionality has to be present.