Friday, February 8, 2013

A Case for Simplicity

For those new to the concept of simple church, it is an expression of church that attempts to remain simple in how it spreads the gospel message throughout the world. The simpler that messages and practices are, the more reproducible they are. Simplicity releases the multiplying power of the kingdom. The aim is to keep everything as easily reproducible as possible by as many people as possible (regardless of age, gender, education, training, etc.). Another simple aspect is that there is very little financial cost (and often none at all) to "running" these kinds of churches, which also serves to make it much more reproducible. (Reproducibility is probably the quickest test of whether something is actually "simple" or not.)

Another reason for keeping things simple is because it keeps the focus on Biblical truth. Rather than getting caught up with who is in or who is out, what a pastor should do, what a church building should look like, having board meetings about budget concerns, or a host of other issues, we can simply ask, "What is the Holy Spirit leading us to do?" This process frees people up to be guided by only the Bible and God's voice. There is no need to spend a lot of time on preparing curriculum, reviewing doctrinal manuals, attending seminaries, etc.

While there is great variety in forms of simple churches, they are often united and networked more by a philosophy than an organizational structure. For the groups I participate in fellowship with, we don't construct buildings, purchase property, or hold executive board meetings.

Ultimately, discipleship itself, looks and feels differently from the familiar routines of most conventional churchgoers. Rather than having numerous Bible studies and courses for members to attend, people become disciples of Jesus by doing what He says to do in their life's context. This method of discipleship is, perhaps, the single most important distinctive of the simple church. As we formed our first simple church, I explained our approach: "We believe people are best discipled when they are encouraged to listen for God's voice and seek His Spirit WHILE they are working at jobs, raising kids at home, shopping in the market, having dinner with friends, and basically, living life!" In other words, as my wife likes to put it, there is not an emphasis on going to church one day out of seven, but instead on being church 24/7.

{Note: The labels "simple" and "organic" are often used interchangeably when describing this type of church expression. Sometimes, these churches are called "house churches," which may accurately describe specific situations. In fact, we often call our gatherings "house church" meetings, but this label does have some limitations and "baggage" attached to it. I prefer the term "simple" because it conveys the mindset behind this spiritual movement, though "organic" is a very instructive and scripturally-rich term for it, as well.)

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