Basic Overview of “Simple Church”

Simple Church,” by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger is a must read for all “cutting edge” church planters, youth pastors, and senior pastors. The subtitle says it all, “Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples!” The whole idea of the book is to remove the clutter and unnecessary trappings of the church and return back to the simple, yet powerful strategies of Jesus to make disciples.

The book provides great research by contrasting thriving churches and dying churches. They define a thriving church as one that grows a minimum of 5% a year for three years in a row. The comparison churches are either not growing or are losing members. The research is impressive and is included in the book with easy-to-read graphs. The most powerful stat is the overall research that shows 999 out of 1000 churches have a “simple church” strategy (p. 14).

The authors do an impressive job of making the “simple church” strategy, well… simple. They give four steps that define the simple church strategy, they are: Clarity, Movement, Alignment, and Focus. Here is a simple breakdown of each part:

Clarity: a church should have a clear, simple, and concise purpose. This purpose should be made into a short, easily understood statement. For example: Metro Praise’s vision is to “Love God and Love People.” As a result, every ministry, staff member, service, and function must line up to the clear purpose.

Movement: the growing church possesses a simple strategy to “move” people from “a to b.” This movement is to be seen in every aspect of the ministry. For example: Metro Praise’s movement is, “Connect, Mentor, and Send.” Thus, the children, youth, and every adult should know how to move in the church the same way from conversion to mature soul-winning leader.

Alignment: the simple church moves every leader and ministry onto the same path to maximize their efforts. The church should be aligned the same with the children, youth, and adults. For example: Metro Praise aligns every leader through the same discipleship process.

Focus: the simple church has to say “no” to anything that causes division to the unified vision. If the church’s purpose involves small groups, there can never be a function or ministry that takes people away from everyone’s focus on small groups. For example: At Metro Praise a person cannot be in the worship band unless they are faithful to small groups.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths: “Simple Church” has the following strengths: (1) It proves through its statistical analysis of over 500 churches that simple is better, (2) The book offers practical ways to become more effective and focused in making disciples, and (3) The authors do not force “one way” of doing church, they give the parameters of what they believe is effective and allow the leader to pray and develop a God-ordained plan.

Weaknesses: Even though the book is great, there are some weaknesses, (1) The authors do not define discipleship and true Christianity enough, therefore, each reader may differ on what they consider a “true disciple,” (2) The book does not address what happens when a “simple church” fails, meaning, “what else” is import to a healthy “simple” church other than being “simple,” (3) There is not enough mention of the Holy Spirit- His gifts, His power, and the moving of His presence in the church, and lastly, (3) The Bible can feel at times to be reduced to more of a “support” to the “proofs” of the research instead of the stats being “support” of the Bible.

My Personal Thoughts

I loved the book because it supports so much of what I feel as a church planter. After my first church plant in New Orleans I have learned the importance of keeping things simple. Some of the best things we have done in our present church are remove mid-week services, eliminate unfruitful outreaches, have a “one-size-fits-all” discipleship process, and focus everyone in small groups. Thus, I am totally in agreement with keeping the movement in the church simple and to the point.

I would love to add a section to this book called, “Anointing: Keep it Simple!” I believe that too many churches make the Holy Ghost out to be the “helper” of their plans, instead of the “power” behind God’s plans. At the same time, there are churches that make the moving of the Spirit so “spooky” that it does not build the church, but it divides. I believe there is a powerful lesson in learning the balance between being wise in God’s eyes and being totally dependant on His plans and the freedom for God to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, and for whatever reason He wants.

Jesus simplified the Jewish religion by making a mess of the temple, He took longer paths to destinations to make accidental meetings divine appointments, and He turned people’s simple understanding of God into a eternal mystery by coming in the flesh as the “God-Man!”