Wednesday, June 20, 2007

SIMPLE CHURCH


The staff pastors are currently reading a book by Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway, called Simple Church. We’re taking the book chapter by chapter, digesting the concepts as we go. We’ve engaged in some lively discussion that I believe ultimately will result in a healthier congregation.

Rainer and the co-author Eric Geiger engaged in two rounds of extensive research with local congregations. Their hypothesis was that healthy, growing congregations stick to a very simple approach to ministry whereas declining or plateaued churches have a complex approach to ministry. The researched affirmed their hypothesis far more than they even anticipated.

The bottom line result any church should strive for is transformed lives. The question is: does the church have a clear process by which life transformation takes place? For example, many of the simple churches stressed three things that they wanted every member to engage in: worship, small group, and ministry. These churches believe that doing these three things effectively will result in changed lives. The vision is communicated very clearly. All the ministries of the church are aligned around those three elements, from senior adults to bed babies.

On the other hand, complex churches are driven by programs, calendars, and activities. The result is many people become over-engaged, activities compete for calendar space, and there is no unified sense of direction. Ask someone in the complex church the process by which life transformation takes place, he won’t have a clue.

At Chapin Baptist, we stress the need for people to be in worship and a small group as well as engage in ministry. In many ways, our process has been effective. I don’t believe we need to overhaul everything. But there are some areas that need evaluation. For example, right now we strongly encourage people to come to worship, Sunday School, and Chapin U and be involved in a ministry. Is there a way that can be simplified?

Another example—we have a bunch who are serving in so many time slots that they don’t have the opportunity to be in worship or engage in a small group. How can we improve this dilemma?

We also need to be more effective in communicating the process so that every church member and every guest knows clearly the steps he/she can take to grow deeper in Christ. We need to make sure that every ministry and every program is aligned with the vision.

I encourage you to pick up Simple Church from Lifeway or Amazon. Read it along with us. I’ll keep you posted with our learnings and desires.

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