If you are joining late to the game. This is a group blogging project. I am only writing about chapter 3 of Simple Church. (Note I linked to the Amazon Kindle version because at the time of writing, the paperback and hardback were not in stock at Amazon.) If you want to see the posts about the rest of the book go here or here for links.
The first chapter was a basic description of what a simple churches. The second chapter compared two (veiled but) real churches as examples of a Simple church model and a not Simple church model.
The third chapter is the description of the research and the overall thesis.
The long version of the definition of Simple church is “A simple church is 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).”
The four requirements (clarity, movement, alignment and focus) are required for the authors to agree that a church structure is simple. Simple has nothing to do with size or church government but is entirely about the church as a spiritual development organization.
This chapter also described the research method, results and focus. I won’t deal with that other than to say as someone with a research background it does seem they have a reasonable study question, good methods and a strong result.
The questions that this brings up for me are several.
1) I think that the authors are basically right that the main purpose of a church should be spiritual development of the members. I think that the assumption is that it will be both a individual and corporate spiritual growth and that evangelism happens as a result of the member’s own spiritual growth. I think that the assumptions are probably valid, but at this point in the book I think those questions would need to be regularly evaluated at the local church level.
2) I think that smaller churches may be easier to transform into a simple church model, but in my experience that is not necessarily the case. I currently attend a very large church that I think meets the requirements of the simple church model, but I was last a member at a very small church (around 50) that was organizationally simple but did not meet any of the four criteria. It is probably too early in the book but I wonder if there was a relationship between size and following the model?
3) Can churches really change? I know there is a significant group of church planters and others that basically say that we shouldn’t bother changing churches, we should just start new ones, let the old ones die and start the models from scratch because the effort in changing a church is not worth it. That hasn’t really been addressed so far, but those churches that I see as simple seem to be younger, have stronger leadership, longer term leaders, and more likely to be non-denominational.
I am sorry this is posted so late in the day. I spent too much time at the ChurchCrunch blog party last night and have to read my chapter and post today.