We’ve just completed our second week of 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. Last week we read chapters one and two. This week we read chapters three, four and five.
I’m much more encouraged to give the principles of this book a try this week than I was last week.
Chapter 3 provided a nice overview of the whole process which is centred around four elements:
Clarity: the leadership team needs to be clear about the churches purpose and process and it needs to communicate that process clearly to the people.
Movement: this is about having a strategy to move people seamlessly through the discipleship process.
Alignment: all the church’s programs need to align with the church’s overall purpose and process.
Focus: any programs that do not align with the church’s overall purpose and process needs to be cut to keep the church focused.
The authors define a simply church as:
“a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth. 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 each area of the church (alignment). The church abandons everything that is not in the process (focus).” (p.67)
The most interesting part of the chapter for me was the discussion of Hezekiah when he smashed to pieces the bronze serpent that Moses made and which saved thousands of lives in Israel’s past. In fact, I wrote a whole post around this idea (click here).
In chapter 4 the book provides simple church examples by looking at three churches in three stages of development or size (a small church of about 300 members, a mid-sized church and a large church). I was able to appreciate the simple model a bit more thanks to the example from the small church which was much more relatable than the other examples in the book so far. It was like watching how the simple church model might work in my own context. You might relate to one of the other churches.
Chapter 5 picks up with part two of the book where each element of a simple church model is explained in greater detail. Chapter 5 deals specifically with clarity.
There are five steps to bringing clarity to the leadership team and church:
1. Define the purpose and process
- to have clarity you need to decide what kind of disciple you wish to produce in your church.
Personally I think this amounts more to a thought exercise than a genuine question with different possibilities. After all, how many “kinds” of disciples can one possible produce? I can only think of one kind. A disciple like Jesus. But I suppose this question is asked as a starting point to get the team to begin to think about articulating their purpose and process. My church (hopefully like all churches), want to produce disciples. But it’s not something we think about or strategize about often.
- describe your purpose as a process.
For example, a disciple is someone who loves God and loves others. Our purpose is to make those kind of disciples. So the process would be: “Love God → Love others → Serve the world” or something to that effect.
- decide how each weekly program is a part of the process.
For example: we might say Sunday mornings service is the “Love God” part of the process. A Wednesday might meeting might be the “Love others” and various ministry opportunities like serving the worship team or running the can goods drive could be the “serve the world” part of the process.
“The programs must specifically be defined how they will be used to move people through the process.”
2. Illustrate the process
People are visual. They’ll forget what you say but will remember the church’s purpose and process if it can be illustrated either by metaphor or by image, and placed somewhere as a constant reminder.
This one excites me. Take your purpose and process, illustrate it and enlarge it to a canvas, then place it in a high traffic area of your church. People will get a quick sense that as a church body your community is on the move. The illustration should be reflective of your process. It should show progression and it should help simplify.
3. Measure your growth
“The cliché is true: what gets evaluated, gets done.”
Most churches measure growth vertically.
- How many people attended youth this week?
- How many people attended small groups this week?
- How many people attended the main service this week?
The problem is that (1) this way of measuring your church’s growth sees each program as an independent entity rather than as a whole. And (2) it doesn’t track growth through your movement process. If your purpose is your process, you need to measure growth through that process. The measurement we should be looking for in a simple model is: how many people moved through the process (what I like to call, the discipleship funnel) this week?
Here’s a picture of the measurement chart illustrated in the book (taken with my iPhone):
Notice how the measurements are tracked horizontally rather than vertically. Of 910 people who attended the main worship service, 555 of them were in small groups that week and of them, 405 served on ministry teams. Those people are the diehards of your church. The more people who can move horizontally through the discipleship funnel, the more growth your church will experience (both spiritually and numerically).
4. Discuss your purpose and process often
“Clarity is not realized without consistency.”
The authors encourage us to discuss our purpose and process often. Embed it in our sermons. Let it be a part of our lingo, our meetings, our elevator conversations. Let the process become a part of our church’s DNA.
When the leadership team is sick of discussing it…
“Ironically, it is just at this point that people in the church are starting to get it.” (p.128)
5. Increase understanding
This is closely related to #4. Make sure people don’t just know your process or hear your process. You need to make sure they understand it. One way to help them “get it” is by telling success stories.
“When you communicate the process, share stories of how it is working. Share stories about how God is moving in the lives of people…” (p. 131)
I’m more hyped than ever to implement the simple church model at my church. I know that some church leaders are put off with “strategizing” discipleship. This book might put them off even more. The authors occasionally source straight-up business men and marketers, applying principles from the business world to church strategy.
Personally this doesn’t bother me so much. I think a carefully look at Christ will show that he was very strategic in his mission and activities where he walked among us. The apostle Paul who was a man led by the spirit was also very strategic in his mission work. John Wesley was one of the greatest strategists in church history and one of the most successful evangelists. He formed what would become the “Methodist” movement, so named because he had a “method” to his mission.
Question: What was your takeaway from these three chapters? Do you embrace a strategic approach to your mission? You can leave a comment by clicking here.