Simple Church, Part 6

Simple Church: Return to God’s Process for Making Disciples
(Rainer and Geiger)

This is a very easy to read and understand assessment of the church in America. The authors provide research to support the assertion that church in America has become complex; leaving a simple strategy that attracts people and moves them into deeper levels of commitment to Christ and the community.

“Art is a process of elimination. The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed.” — Elbert Hubbard (Focus)

We must shy away from our culture of super-size me and stick to what fits the process. More and bigger programs do not bring spiritual health. Remember Curly, on City Slickers? He would hold out his bony finger and say there was really only one thing… and if I remember, he died before he told them! David longed for one thing (Psalm 27:4); Paul longed for one thing (Philippians 3:13-14); Timothy was to focus on one thing (1 Timothy 4:7-8); even the writer of Hebrews wants us to focus on one thing (Hebrews 12:1-2). We are focus as a builder:

Eliminating:
This is difficult since churches are like pack-rats, surrounded by clutter. Churches that eliminate clutter in programming are more focused on what they are to do.

  1. Going Google – streamline and keep it simple.
  2. Stewardship – don’t just spend, but invest. Every program is an investment in the process. Be wise in use of time and money.

Limit adding:
Use existing weekly programs for special emphases/initiatives instead of adding new programs. Less is more. Choose new options rather than adding new programs.

Reduce special events:
Don’t ride a fence, you must be focused. Perhaps it is time to pull out the knife. If special events are always publicized, the essential programs that move people through the process are not emphasized. These other events will complete with the essential programs for the time of the people. Funnel the special events into existing programs. Special events must be used strategically.

Easily communicated:
If you want people to understand why you are so passionate about your ministry process, you must be able to communicate it with ease.

Simple to understand:
Saying “no” is easier to accept when there is reasoning behind it. When people are committed to the process, they will be more likely to embrace the decisions that accompany such focus. Be brief and choose simple language.

Simple Church, Part 5

Simple Church: Return to God’s Process for Making Disciples
(Rainer and Geiger)

This is a very easy to read and understand assessment of the church in America. The authors provide research to support the assertion that church in America has become complex; leaving a simple strategy that attracts people and moves them into deeper levels of commitment to Christ and the community.

“Now I urge you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all same the same thing, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction.” — Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:10 (Alignment)

Unity is a miracle: Jesus prayed that his disciples experience unity, that they be one (John 17:21). Alignment is having all those involved on the same page.

Recruit on the process:
Don’t just hire people on their talent but how they fit the organization. Hiring the best in each role will lead to division. A staff person cannot be all things to all people; each must stand on their convictions and priorities.

Offer accountability:
The church is not a building, a creed or an institution; it’s alive. There is a balance between micro-managing the process and neglect. This balance is called good leadership. A tool worth considering is having a Ministry Action Plan. We used this approach in Africa and is very helpful in defining measurable goals and action plans to meet those goals.

Implement the same process everywhere:
The simple process guides every group and department; children through students and adults. The benefits include:

  1. Understanding is increased – everyone understand the direction of the community.
  2. Unity is promoted – each ministry is pulled together.
  3. Families experience the same process – they are challenged toward movement within the process.

Unite around the process:
If the community is not united around the same process, it will look a lot like Mr. Potato Head with his parts in the wrong places. We must function in the right way (1 Corinthians 12:12). New ministries are always added and evaluated according to the process.

Simple Church, Part 4

Simple Church: Return to God’s Process for Making Disciples
(Rainer and Geiger)

This is a very easy to read and understand assessment of the church in America. The authors provide research to support the assertion that church in America has become complex; leaving a simple strategy that attracts people and moves them into deeper levels of commitment to Christ and the community.

“And we, who with unveiling faces, all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” — Paul 2 Corinthians 3:18 (Movement)

Strategic programming:

  1. Begin with your clearly defined process (not the programs).
  2. Choose one program fro each phase of the process (rather than attach all programs into the new process).
  3. Design each program for a specific aspect of the process (don’t let other priorities clutter the process).

Sequential programming and intentional movement:

  1. Order the sequences of your programs to reflect your process (programming flows from the process).
  2. Designate a clear entry-point to your process (the place where most people are likely to enter the process, then do it with excellence).
  3. Identify the next levels of programming (once they attend at the entry-point, the program that is their next target).
  4. Capitalize on relationships and connect people to groups.

New Members’ Class?

  1. Teach the simple process (correct their preconceived ideas about the church).
  2. Ask for commitment to the process (invite people to join the journey).

Jesus’ example:

  1. The Calling – Luke 5-6
  2. The Building – Luke 7-8
  3. The Sending – Luke 9-10

Simple Church, Part 3

Simple Church: Return to God’s Process for Making Disciples
(Rainer and Geiger)

This is a very easy to read and understand assessment of the church in America. The authors provide research to support the assertion that church in America has become complex; leaving a simple strategy that attracts people and moves them into deeper levels of commitment to Christ and the community.

“If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward.” — Paul, 1 Corinthians 3:14 (Clarity)

How to get started:

  1. Determine what type of disciple you wish to produce in your church (like passionate lovers of God desiring to serve others).
  2. Describe your purpose as a process (expecting movement and spiritual growth).
  3. Decide how each weekly program is part of the process (how a program used to move people through the process).

Illustration:

  1. The illustration should reflect your process (which reflects the reality of the process).
  2. The illustration should show progression (Rick Warren used the baseball diamond).
  3. The illustration should help simplify (don’t use symbols with hidden meanings that need clarification).

Measurement:

  1. Learn to view numbers horizontally, not vertically – vertically numbers how many people are participating in each event or group. Horizontally measures how many are moving within the process.
  2. Measure attendance at each level in the process – how many are plugged in and then measure the movement.

Ongoing conversation:

  1. View everything through the lens of your simple process, the blueprint.
  2. Surface the process in meetings.
  3. Test leaders on it (like fill in the blanks of the illustration).
  4. Brainstorm new ways to communicate the process.

Increased understanding:

  1. Articulate the process corporately (repeating significant things, from the top down).
  2. Share the process interpersonally (not just from the pulpit, but around dinner tables and at meetings).
  3. Live the process personally (live what you are asking your people to do). The difference between a travel agent and a river guide, is that the travel guide sets up your journey and turns you loose, while the river guide actually takes you on the journey, knowing all the rough spots and helps you through.

Simple Church, Part 2

Simple Church: Return to God’s Process for Making Disciples
(Rainer and Geiger)

This is a very easy to read and understand assessment of the church in America. The authors provide research to support the assertion that church in America has become complex; leaving a simple strategy that attracts people and moves them into deeper levels of commitment to Christ and the community.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” — Hans Hofmann

The church is in need of an extreme makeover. The authors propose four simple keys to developing a simple strategy: clarity, movement, alignment and focus.

Defining a Simple Church – a simple church is defined as “a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth.” Let’s look at this definition.

  1. Designed means that it is not carelessly thrown together but rather it is thought-out, structured and designed with care and prayer.
  2. Around means that all programs and ministries revolve around something. They are not intended to just fill a calendar, but rather they revolve around the stated and publicized core values (mission) of the church.
  3. Straightforward means that it is not confusing, but rather easy to grasp. The leaders know it and congregation understands it. The process is intentionally kept simple.
  4. Strategic means that all programs are tied in to the purpose or vision of the church. It is designed to impact people’s lives.
  5. Moves people means that the process moves people to greater commitment to Christ and His church. Perhaps this movement will attract people through worship services and then move people toward small group experiences, then in time, move them toward Christian service.
  6. Through the stages of spiritual growth is really the goal of the whole process. God changes lives and people are conformed to the image of Christ.

The church is designed to partner with God in moving people through stages of spiritual growth; to structure the church around a process of spiritual transformation. The authors suggest that the church in America today needs an “extreme makeover;” a new design for church ministry.

Clarity:
This is the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by the people. Basically, the people get it. Their purpose is easy to recall and quote. It is communicated through the pastor, the staff, church leaders and each specialized ministry.

Movement:
This is the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment. The hand-off is extremely important, much like the relay race in the Olympics; if the baton is dropped, the team will not win.

Alignment:
This is the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process. All are moving in the same direction, operating from the same blueprint. No one program is completing for the constituency. There is a tendency to drift from alignment. Like in tires, the church needs a realignment at times.

Focus:
This is the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process. It requires saying “yes” to some things and “no” to all others. Focus is the element that gives power and energy to clarity.

Hezekiah and Makeovers:
Second Kings 18:1-12 records the reforms of King Hezekiah. He removed one of the sacred items that turned into an object of worship. Remember the bronze snake on the pole (Numbers 21:6-8)? The once relevant item turned into an idol. This was likely an unpopular decision, but it was the right thing to do.

“Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” — Jesus, Matthew 16:18

The Theology of Gates:
The gates of hell are powerless to contain the movement of the gospel. Gates are also defensive, not offensive. Think about who is on the attack. The church always has the ball, or is always at bat. Victory is guaranteed, we know who wins at the end.

Fringe Benefits of a Simple Church:
Increased morale (by defining the Great Commission in the form of a simple disciple-making process), Urgency (ever increasing urgency to see people move through the process rather than just see conversions), Spiritual Growth (people becoming proactive in their own development, commitments to small groups and inviting friends), Conversions (greater commitment to Christ leads people to share their faith), Stewardship (eliminating programs that did not align with the process), Unity (becoming a closer family by agreeing on the process and consolidating efforts).

Sample Simplicity of Other Churches:

  1. Emmanuel Baptist in Glasgow Kentucky – “Connecting, Growing, Serving”
  2. Christ Fellowship in Miami – “Connect to God, others, ministry and the lost”
  3. Northpoint Community near Atlanta – they seek to move people from the “foyer to the kitchen.”
    1. The foyer is the entry point of the fellowship (perhaps large group worship).
    2. The living room is where relationships are built (perhaps a special event experience offered at strategic times).
    3. The kitchen is where the most intimate conversations occur (small group with accountability).