This month we celebrate the three-year anniversary of Simple Church. I am thankful to my co-author Eric Geiger, who is really the brains behind the research and the concept. And I am thankful to the readers who made this book one of the bestsellers in its genre. The responses far exceeded our expectations.
It is also a good time to reflect on those responses, and address those areas that have been the major points of interest of the Simple Church concept. I assume in the writing of this blog that you have read the book. Of course, I realize that many have not. Still, feel free to listen in on this conversation.
It’s All about Discipleship
Simple Church began with these two sentences: “Relax. This book is not about another church model.” Though we weren’t really surprised, some church leaders tried to make this concept another “plug and play” model. They wanted step-by-step instructions so they could emulate the model for their churches.
But it’s not a model. Here is the essence of the book. If someone were to ask you how they could become a more committed follower of Christ through the ministries of your church, how would you answer? What is your process for discipleship? In many churches we encourage people to get involved in a plethora of activities, but we don’t really know how all those activities work together to help someone on the process of spiritual maturity.
Simple Church seeks to simplify (redundant, I know) the process of discipleship. It seeks to make it clear so people understand it and eagerly embrace it.
Illustrations but Not Formulas
In Simple Church we gave some possible illustrations of mission statements that could serve as a clear process for discipleship. That was one of the most intriguing aspects of our research. The purpose statement could also be a process statement.
We then provided the fictitious example of Cross Church and its mission statement: “Love God, love others, serve the world.” Some unfortunately concluded that all mission statements could only have three components like Cross Church. Some also concluded that it left no room for different types of small groups in the same church, such as home groups and Sunday School.
Fortunately, most churches understand that a Simple Church can have more than one type of small group and more than three components of a mission statement. The key is not a formulaic mission statement, but one that reflects the process of discipleship in the church.
Simple Means Clear
The concept of “simple” in the book was that the process of discipleship could be clearly understood, and that all of the activities, ministries, and programs of the church aligned with that process of discipleship. If some area of the church did not align, consideration should be given to eliminate that area. We called this part of simple church “focus.”
“Simple” is not necessarily a synonym with “few.” Some churches perhaps did need to eliminate a lot of their busyness, but others did not see the need to do much elimination. Instead they needed to concentrate on aligning the current ministries of the church with the clearly stated process of discipleship.
“Show Me the Model!”
Eric and I have received thousands of requests to provide examples of the Simple Church model. We struggle with that request because Simple Church is not a model. It is a concept that helps churches focus on disciple making that aligns with activities. And no church will ever “arrive.” It’s a process. It’s ongoing. There is no perfect example. There is no model church because there is no model.
An Expression of Gratitude
Eric and I are deeply appreciative to those of you who made Simple Church one of the most widely read books on the church. We are grateful for the praise you have given the book, and we are grateful for the constructive criticism we have received.
Above all, we are grateful for the countless testimonies of the churches that took the heart of the Simple Church message and applied it to their congregations. We are overwhelmed with the stories of churches that moved from activities to disciple making. We are often moved to the point of tears when we hear of lives that have been transformed in these churches.
That’s what made this research and writing so worthwhile. Churches transformed. Lives transformed. Glory given to God through it all.
That’s what made the effort worth it.
That’s what it’s all about.
It’s just that simple.