simple church

December 22, 2007 | 2 Comments

Though I read a fair number of books, I usually only blog about those that I find noteworty and worth recommending, or those I received for review. Usually, if I read a book and don’t like it, it doesn’t make it to the blog — today’s an expception.

I’m not sure I yet understand why, but Simple Church was a disappointing book to read. The subtitle is Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples. Perhaps I need to just live by a general rule that I won’t read anything to suggests accurate knowledge of God’s plan, process or way, because I think it makes me a bit skeptical.

The term ‘simple church’ is becoming a pretty common way to describe some forms of house church. I’m far from an expert on how it might differ from other forms of house church, but I at least know it’s common. I have a fair amount of interest in this simple church movement. I didn’t fully expect this book to be about that movement, and it certainly wasn’t, so perhaps the title wasn’t the best choice.

Trying to make things simple in a strong cultural trend right now, and I’m in line with that way of thinking. I’m very interested in the value of making things simple and find it is a constant discipline for me to try to say no to things. From that perspective, I appreciate what the book was trying to, or hoping to, be about.

In a nutshell, Rainer and Geiger want to encourage churches to simplify their programming around a straightforward process to move people to spiritual maturity. I think that’s where I disconnect. The idea is great and looks good on paper. But the the work of the church is rooted in relationship. Maturity comes through relationship which is usually much messier than it is straightforward. One simple thing I’m confident of is that God works in many different ways in many different lives, and it rarely fits in a box…or a process.

Back to the simple church movement…it seems that the emphasis there is to strip so many things away so that the main emphasis can be relationships over process or programs. And I think that is what was missing from the book for me. Programs and processes aren’t bad, but I think the writers wrongly emphasize process in way that misses the value of connecting people in maturing relationships.

  • John, I completely agree with your analysis of this book. I had heard it strongly recommended and was greatly disappointed when I read it. In fact, I concluded that it was my least favorite book that I read in 2007. Should it really take 250 pages to describe a “simple” church?

  • Clem Schultz

    Most churches are so engrossed in growing and multiplying that people become just names on a tabulation report. Programs are seen as the solution yet marriages continue to break apart and parents are finding their kids with a growing discontentment regarding their own spirituality as well as difficult family relationships. There seems to be no time for true friendship and discipleship as the programs take up much of the time and energy. As people drive home from the programs and business of “church” they feel a growing “aloneness.” I agree with the Simple Church concept if it means “romove the barriers to relationships.” The proof will be if the church can really “be the church” to each other and to thier community. Clem