Group Blogging Project: Simple Church (Chapter 8)

This is my contribution to a group blogging project using Simple Church.  Essentially, a blogger writes/reflects on one chapter and hosts the discussion on their blog/website over the course of two weeks.  Go to Andy’s website for links to the previous chapters/discussion or the last one (chapter nine).

Without further a due my reflections on Chapter 8 “Focus:  Saying No to Almost Everything”:

Yesterday, I had the chance to go out to eat with a friend and leader.  We went to a typical American chain restaurant with reliable food.  As often happens, I arrived at the restaurant with my stomach growling.  I didn’t have a clue ahead of time what I wanted to eat.  As a result, I flipped restlessly through the menu.  The problem, apart from my hunger, was the multitude of options that were before me.  In addition to the menu, there were a couple of other special menus with even more choices.  You would think that all the choices would make it easy, but in this case, it actually made it difficult to decide what to eat (I eventually settled on a burger & fries – living on the edge, I know).  Same thing happens when we go to get deodorant from the store – so many brands, smells, and promises.  Even though my problem is relatively simple (I’ll stink without it), all of the choices can make something easy – difficult.

The same multitude of choices is being introduced into the church to satisfy a consumer-oriented & elevated culture that feasts regularly upon fast-food diets and wants church the same way (more choices, faster response).  The authors call this “fast-food spirituality” and say that this approach is killing our churches.  It requires us to “say no to everything” that does not fit into the simple process of disciple making & building.  And constant vigilance, evaluation, and courage are required to say no.  But “[f]ocus is a truth taught and affirmed throughout Scripture. The focus of individuals in the Bible is humbling, and principle of one thing emerges…focus is the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process.”

The authors suggest the following helps to maintain focus:

  1. Eliminate:  eliminate programs/ministries that are not directly related to a designed discipleship process.  I appreciate that the authors acknowledge the great difficulty in doing this.  It is far better to be simple to begin with, than to try to go back.
  2. Limit Adding: Though it may be hard (and necessary) to eliminate, it should be easier to limit the addition of new events, programs, or ministries. The difficulty here is when the new thing is designed to meet a real or perceived need.  And sometimes new feels very appealing (ah, this is what will help us grow…).
  3. Reduce Special Events: “In general, simple churches are so focused on their ministry process that there is little time for special events.  Special events would get in the way. They would distract.”  The difficulty in this is similar to the problems in numbers 1 & 2 – eliminating somebody’s ministry and the appeal of a special event.
  4. Easily Communicated
  5. Simple to Understand:  The point with both points 4 & 5 are that a discipleship process is that cannot easily understood or communicated is by nature not simple and therefore will not keep the church focused on a simple process.

Focus requires saying no – and even saying it a lot.  This, to me, is the great difficulty.  I don’t like to say no and not many of us want to be the ministry killjoy.  Maybe we could borrow something from the world of pro football.  Every team has that guy that the players striving to make the team avoid at all cost.  He’s the guy that asks for the playbook and tells you you’ve been cut.  Maybe we could have a guy like that in the church:  “I’m sorry your ministry has been cut.  Hand in your keys to the church.  Don’t worry, Jesus still loves you.”  Err, maybe not.

Seriously, as a pastor in a small church, the notion of focus (and simplification more broadly) are challenging.  In our church, we have a lot of people who work really hard to serve the church and the Kingdom of God.  As a result, they are fulfilling the call and command of God in many ways.  At the same time, I often see tired people too.  What is appealing to me about focus and simplification is the ability to free people from the burden of ministry and channel them into the joys of ministry because they know what we are doing is essential to the life and growth process of the church and they are a vital part of that.

But even more than focusing on process, I want people to learn to focus on the Gospel on a daily basis.  Then maybe we can talk about process in a much healthier way.  But I guess that’s another book.

Your thoughts?

One response to this post.

  1. Many Amens.

    The gospel touches so many areas of our lives that it’s a real blessing to know that people want to start new programs/ministries. But they don’t always realize (nor do we) that starting is easier than sustaining over the long haul, and eventually there is a crowded field of good ideas that aren’t really being implemented well.

    I heard a speaker the other day say that their church has relatively few programs because they encourage people with new ideas to ask these questions:

    1) Is another Christian church/ministry already doing this well? If so, join/partner with them.

    2) Is someone else doing this, but not so well? If so, join/partner with them and pray for an opportunity to bring the gospel into it.

    3) Is this not being done? If this is the case, then begin praying for vision, laborers, etc…


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