We begin to look at Simple Church in our Church Leader’s Book Club (for the conversation you can hashtag #clbc). If you haven’t purchased the book already click here. You can also take part in the conversation by joining our Facebook Group. By today you should have read chapters one and two.
In today’s post I’ll do my best to summarize the content from the first two chapters and offer my own reflections followed by some questions from the book.
Early in the book we learn that Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger want to connect their message to us through story. They reach for real-life examples of complex vs. simple church models. The feeling we’re meant to receive is clear: as a pastor or church leader don’t you want to relieve yourself of the burden of stale complexity and embrace a more simple and profound disciple-making way?
The Simple Revolution
The first chapter dives into what they call the “Simple Revolution.” They say “Simple is in. Complexity is out.” And they prove it by reaching for examples in culture: Apple knows this. “They are the pioneers of simple.” Google knows this. Just check out Google’s homepage. It’s because they are so simple that they are the best (compared to, for example, Yahoo! or MSN’s search engines which are filled with complexity). Southwest Airlines knows this, Papa John’s knows this, graphic designers know this and, after listing more examples they conclude, growing and vibrant churches know this.
But far from appealing to a fad, they ultimately root a Simple Church philosophy in Jesus: “If anyone knows this, it’s Jesus.” They look at, for example, how Jesus took the 613 laws that the religious leaders discerned from the five books of Moses, and simplify them down to only two: Love God, love one another. Clutter in churches, lots of activities, lots of programs, lots of paperwork, can be a deceiving way to measure if a church is growing:
“Often great amounts of activity do not produce life change. It only gives the impression that things are happening, that there is life.”
One of my favourite quotes from the first chapter is when the authors write:
“Simple church leaders are designers. They design opportunities for spiritual growth. Complex church leaders are programmers. They run ministry programs.”
And so the punchline for chapter one is this:
“To have a simple church, you must design a simple discipleship process. This process must be clear. It must move people toward maturity. It must be integrated fully into your church, and you must get rid of the clutter around it.”
Two Churches Compared
In chapter two the author’s compare two churches, one which has a complex system called First Church. The other has a simple system in place, called Cross Church. Both churches are about the same size, in the same demographic, serving similar communities. But one is growing (Cross Church) while the other is stagnant (First Church).
Here are the characteristics of First Church (Complex)
- Lot’s of statements (mission statement, purpose statement, vision statement, strategy statement and so on)
- All of their statements are different
- The people in the church don’t actually know what the church’s statements are, or have a vague impression
- There’s no clear movement or process to grow as a corporate body and make disciples
- Each ministry does its own thing independent of the others
- There are over 8 major programs that run in a typical 7 day week
- Staff meetings are taken up by complex calendars and leaders vying for days set aside for their ministry.
- The church tracks each ministry’s growth apart from the other ministries
Here are the characteristics of Cross Church (Simple)
- One purpose statement which doubles as the process statement (“Love God, love people, serve the world”)
- The people know exactly what their church’s purpose is, and what the process is to make it happen
- There is a clear process to make disciples (Sunday morning [love God] -> Small Groups [love people] -> serving opportunities [serve the world])
- Every ministry in the church is aligned with that purpose and are a part of that process
- There are only three weekly programs, each designed to move people through the process funnel
- The staff spend about 4 minutes on the calendar at meetings
- The church tracks only one number: how many people moved through the funnel.
The chapter ends with this question: Is your church more like First Church or Cross Church?
Thoughts and Reflections
I wrote in the margins next to that question: “Neither.” To be honest, coming from a small church, and in my Canadian context where the vast majority of churches across the nation has less than 100 members, I had a hard time relating with the examples in the book.
For example, my church is nothing like First Church because we just don’t have enough people to have such a complex system in place. But we’re also nothing like Cross Church because we don’t hardly have a statement at all, or if we do, nobody knows what it is and there is certainly no process in place to make it happen.
In my opinion, we simple exist with the hope that what we are doing will produce fruit somehow. And in my experience working with churches over the years, we are the norm.
Here are some questions from the book:
- In culture how have you seen people respond to simple?
- Is your church simple or complex? Why?
- Which church would you rather be a part of (First or Cross)?
- Does your church or ministry have a process?
Question: What about your church? Do you relate more with me or more with one of the two church examples in the book? You can leave a comment by clicking here.