SIMPLE CHURCH: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples
Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger
B&H Publishing Group
Have you ever been to a church that has so many mission statements, purposes and visions that it feels like the congregation doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going? Have you ever opened a church bulletin and felt overwhelmed by the smorgasboard of events and options? Have you ever been to a church where there has been a ton of activity yet no tangible growth?
If so, know that you’re not alone. What you’re experiencing and seeing is happening in all too many churches around the country. Fortunately, according to church consultant Thom S. Rainer and pastor Eric Geiger, there is a better way --- and it’s found in the journey toward simplicity. In SIMPLE CHURCH: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples, Rainer and Geiger reveal stunning new research that suggests the most vibrant, growing churches in our country usually take the simplest approaches to ministry. This book is a call for Christian leaders to return to the simple methods of Jesus. No nine-step plans. No multi-level outreach strategies. No slick, shiny marketing plan required. Promise.
Instead, the authors believe that a simple church is designed around a clear, strategic process that helps people move through various stages of spiritual growth. The leaders, staff and members are all clear about the process and committed to making it happen. The process flows logically; it is easy to understand and can be implemented in every area of the church. Anything that does not fall into this progression is eliminated. Hence, the simplicity. So how does that play out in an actual church?
Throughout the book, Rainer and Geiger look at real churches that have adopted this philosophy and what it looks like within a congregation. Immanuel Baptist Church in Glaslow, Kentucky, centers its community on connecting, growing, serving. As people visit the church, they are introduced to this concept, which is true not only for their spiritual life but also for their relationship to the church. They are invited to get connected with God and fellow members. As they do so, they are to move on to the next stage --- growing --- in the depth of their relationship with God and others.
Then it’s time to progress to the third area, serving, by getting involved and making a difference. While the church is vibrant and growing, the real focus for leaders and members is moving people along in the progression. The model is simple but highly effective. As Rainer and Geiger show, it is modeled in some of the largest, most successful churches in the country, including Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, led by Andy Stanley.
While the book is clearly based on research, one of its weaknesses is the layout of the data presented (clearly not the authors’ fault). Most of the tables are not titled on top; instead they are labeled in the lower portion, which is difficult to understand, and the importance or meaning of the study is often lost. Hopefully, the publisher will be certain that reprints make the information and data more accessible to the reader.
Overall, SIMPLE CHURCH is a must-read for all pastors and church staff members. Expect to hear buzz about this book for years to come.
--- Reviewed by Margaret Oines
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