One of the most influential books that I read this year was entitled "Simple Church" by Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger. Of the many books I read this year, it will have greatest impact for implementation in ministry. It was just on time for me. I was urged to read it by Dennis Gingerich, Lead Pastor of CCF in Florida (this church is Mennonite and big...it's like us on steroids). Anyway, it was one of these books that I just had to do a book review on when I was done. Did this months ago, (pre-blogging) but now I need to assess how it will enter into my message series at the start of 2008. Title for that series later...may ask you for ideas...
So, here is a report of what I found most helpful in this book. Enjoy:
Simple works! People respond to simple! Jesus Knew it and He still knows it!
Apple knows simple! A simple little apple with a bite out of it on the front of any product speaks with a loud voice. Whatever the device is, if it has a bit apple on the front, you can bet it is SIMPLE to use and very functional.
Google knows simple! Google offers practically nothing on the on a page that can find you practically anything in the known world. One click, no clutter, and changed the world of computers as we know it.
Graphic designers know simple, Papa Johns’ knows simple, interior designers know simple, marketing gurus know simple…VIBRANT & GROWING Churches know simple!
If anyone know simple- It’s Jesus. He stepped into a complicated and cluttered religious scene. There were hundreds of laws and do’s and don’ts and Jesus shows up and gives Matt. 22:37-40, the Greatest Commandment; Love the Lord and Love your neighbor!. Jesus then said that ALL the law is summed up with this love!
…It was also Jesus who said “My yoke is easy, my Burden is light”
…It was also Jesus who SIMPLY summarized our mission as a church for us. We need no meetings or committees to figure out what the church should be up to. Jesus went ahead and figured all that out for us when he concluded Matthew’s gospel with the words… “Go into the world, make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey me.” That is your mission!
- Love God
- Love Others
- Make Disciples (which I would suggest IS loving God and others)
More thoughts on the book:
Simple church leaders are designers of opportunities for spiritual growth. While complex church leaders are programmers running ministry programs. Only God is the producer of growth. But like the Apostle Paul, simple church developers are expert builders (I Cor. 3:10) who have skillfully designed an environment where life change can occur.
To have a simple church, you must design a simple discipleship process. The process must be clear. It must move people toward spiritual maturity. It must be integrated fully into your church and you must remove the clutter from around it.
Comparing 2 random churches for the purpose of illustration:
- Around for 40 years, great reputation, known for annual Christmas program, excellent staff.
- Church has not had any crisis, but has just been at a standstill for 5 years
- Has many documents, brochure, booklets, mission statements, purpose statements, vision statements, strategy statement…all different from the other…and all LONG
- Each ministry even has their own vision & mission….
- After extensive reading, we are very unsure of the focus at First Church.
- Lead Pastor is excited about “all the great things” happening and doesn’t want to throw cold water on staff, but feels disjointed and that everyone is going a different direction.
- Pastors struggle to articulate vision and can barely decide how it’s lived out.
- After interviewing church leaders about what the focus of their church is, they get a myriad of answers… none of which match the brochures read before the visit.
- If First Church isn’t sure of their “What” then their “How” is not even on the radar screen!
- If the purpose is hazy, the process for making the purpose happen cannot even enter the picture.
- First Church pushes at least 8 major program in just 7 days
- The calendar is the main topic of staff meetings
- They always look for All Star, very gifted staff…they are known for this.
- Each staff member is superb at building their area of hire, however they are not focused, unified and promoting ONE vision.
- Announcements: LOTS! All with a “this will change your life, if you come” tone and great passion from Pastor (infomercial without a 1-800 number)
- Lots of busyness, lots of activity, just does not fit into any big picture, because there is no big picture!
- Not well known, no renown staff members
- Been around 20 years and grown a lot
- Similar number of Newsletters, Brochures. Quality & Graphic design similar…
- One major difference emerges ... there is only 1 statement on everything… Just One.
- There is one overarching theme
- Cross Church is about “Loving God, Loving People & Serving the World” …Simple
- After interviewing the Pastor at Cross Church, they find out that it is all set up that way on purpose!
- After interviewing key leaders at Cross Church, it was discovered that they all eat, breath and sleep the purpose… It is in the DNA-Love God, others and serve world.
- Announcements at First Church: 1) After church, there is a guest reception for first-time guests, 2) There is a new members’ class next week for those interested in joining, 3) For those ready to try a Small Group---- Go to the Small Group booth in the hallway today.
- Lots of focus, clarity, simplicity.
Final summarizing thoughts about the book:
Book Definition of a SIMLPE CHURCH: A simple church is a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of Spiritual Growth.
An extensive research project was launched with the goal of seeing if there was a relationship between being simple and being effective. General Finding, in simple language: churches that are vibrant and growing are simple!
Expanded Definition after research: The leadership and the church are clear about the process (clarity) and are committed to executing it. The process flows logically (movement) and is implemented in all areas of the church (alignment). The church abandons everything that is not in the process (focus).