Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples

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The simple revolution has begun. From the design of the iPod to the uncluttered Google home page, simple ideas are changing the world.

Simple Church clearly calls for Christians to return to the simple gospel-sharing methods of Jesus. No bells or whistles required, so to speak.

Based on case studies of four hundred American churches, authors Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger prove that the process for making disciples has quite often become too complex. Simple churches are thriving, and they are doing so by taking these four ideas to heart: Clarity. Movement. Alignment. Focus.

Each idea is examined here, simply showing why it is time to simplify.

Customer Reviews:

  • Simple Church - excellent book - on target
    Our church has studied this book and we've found it to be an excellent guide for focusing on the purpose and true meaning of being Christian and spending our time on the most important things of life. We highly recommend this book....more info
  • Becareful
    Some Churches take this simplifying mentality a bit too far and ruin a living body. This book could be the best for some and dangerous for others....more info
  • Break Through Thought on Organization
    Main Idea of the Text:

    The book is dealing with the process of organizing the structure and programs of a church through a process that brings Christians to an end goal of transformation.

    The Three Top Ideas of Greatest Benefit:

    1. The best idea of the book is the foundational idea of "a simple church is a congregation designed around a straight-forward and strategic process that moves people through the states of spiritual growth. This book breaks the common model of church growth material. Often the material deals with adding programs and ministries to involve or attract more people. This book focuses on the alignment of the discipleship process.
    2. The second best idea is that of movement. This is what makes this book special. As the book notes, too many churches are poor relay teams, there is little skill in developing ministries that build on one another. Usually programs are haphazardly put together with no "end goal" in sight.
    3. The third best idea is that of elimination in a congregation. Most congregations seek to grow by adding to the available menu of programs and services of a congregation. Instead of "killing" a work, people seek to add to an existing work. This creates the problem of burn out in a transitioning congregation. Instead of adding, a congregation must eliminate the ineffective works to make room for the process of aligning a congregation.

    The Three Ideas of Major disagreement:

    1. This book is not for every size of church. It really does not speak to the smaller church context. The book will help a congregation to develop this process of movement and alignment, but it seems to be speaking to the program size church which is a congregation that has a lot of present ministries but a weak process. If this material is given too quickly to some small church leaders, it would be used as an excuse to stall some of the programs that a congregation is seeking to implement.

    2. Once again this book's context is helping existing churches to develop a better model in ministry. The book should have spent some time in dealing with the competing forces for attention in a congregation. The process needs to take place, but there would be considerable debate in congregations concerning what are the core ministries.

    3. Just a grip, this book coy too often. The authors try to be entertaining or funny, but sometimes just come off as corny. Most ministers reading this book are looking for help, not dumb comments.

    The Recommendation of the Book:

    I would recommend this book because of the breakthrough thought of clarity, movement, alignment, and focus. Congregations would be wise to follow this model....more info
  • Excellent Book!
    This is a real eye opener. Every Church leader and council member should read this book before starting their current role. Read it NOW if you haven't yet. Read this next:Essential Church?: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts...more info
  • Contradictory and confusing
    Yes there were a few good points in the book and it would be useful for us to follow the Clarity - Movement - Alignment - Focus model, but there is just to much here that turned me off!

    On page nine when they have to explain what an i-pod is I began to wonder who was the intended audience for the book? Then when they get into the statistical analysis on p.112 they say, "Notice how the majority of the comparison churches are on the left of the figure..." I looked and I looked again, and then again and I swear that unless I'm losing my mind, most of the comparison churches are on the right of the figure. Granted its not as high a % as the "vibrant" churches but its still most!

    On p.117 we are told that "of the vibrant churches, 35 percent strongly agreed or agreed with the statement [we have a visual illustration of our process]compared to 16 percent of the comparison churches." Great I thought, until I looked and saw that almost 35% of the vibrant churches either strongly disagreed or disagreed with the same statement. Makes me wonder what this has to do with vibrancy?

    We are told on p.129 that, "Vibrant churches are confident that people understand their simple ministry process." To which the authors point to the 60% of people who agree at some level. This is one of the few times they don't appeal to just the stronly agree and agree but also include the "mostly agree column." While this may be significant in relation to the comparison churches the reality that 40% of the vibrant churches disagree with this statement hardly permits one to state that "Vibrant churches are confident that people understand their simple ministry process." At best we could say "Most vibrant churches."

    Yes, there is some good stuff in this book that you intuitively know is correct. Indeed it was this intuition that the authors based the study on. However there is just to much that looks and sounds like junk for me to recommend it to anyone....more info
  • Occam's razor
    This book had a lot of good to say about the streamlining of the church-growing process, However, in my opinion, the authors would have been better served in saving the statistical info for endnotes at the end of each chapter or used the data as part of their appendices at the end of the book. Their endeavoring to weave the info into the body of the hypotheses they were presenting made the reading process more difficult and less streamlined.

    Since their stated goal was to make things simple, they should have followed Occam's Razor, which suggests that the simplest solution presented in the simplest manner possible is most likely to be the best solution to any given problem....more info
  • it's good
    I think it has some great ideas and is going to be a help in my ministry planning. But as with all of Thom Rainer's books, it is too wordy and needs to be to the point. I like his research, but to be honest, add it as an appendix. I dont need to know that 83% of all simple church said it. If it is a good idea, then I will use it....more info
  • Simple Church is Simply Strategic:
    This book is a must read for any church leadership team that is serious about introducing people to Jesus and having a plan for them to grow in Christ. Simple Church gives that context and tools to create a process that will result in individuals growing in Christ throughout the church. Based on empherical evidence the authors discovered that program based larger churches were not producing disciples. A lot of activity going on, but not much to brag about when it came to results.

    Our church staff has taken the insightful findings in the book and crafted a simple process that anyone can follow to become more like Christ. The book has been an invaluable guide for us. It has revolutionized not only what we do, but what we don't do!

    It's a book that every church leadership team should read....more info
  • Great reminder
    This simple book was a great reminder to me to focus on the essentials of church and cut out some of the clutter. Could have done without all the charts in the book :)...more info
  • Simple Church
    This is the best book in the market that deals with how to intentionally make disciples as a church. This book focuses on a simple process to make disciples versus complicated programs that end up competing with one another for people, money and other resources. If the principles are applied you will find that making decisions as to what to do and not do as a church become much simpler and liberating. ...more info
  • Not sure I would pay the full price for this again....
    This book is as skewed. The statistics are skewed and the survey findings are not able to be generalized to the overall population. There was no random sampling, and so the findings were significant because they surveyed significant churches and failing church.... several times the data in the form of graphs show something totally different than what they state their findings are, which makes the skewing even more evident than usual, if they had let the data say what the data says, and not force the data to try and say what they want it to say their findings probably would be not substantial and would not need to have a book written....more info
  • Simple Church
    The Simple Church gives a good design to implement a simple process in any church that moves people toward spiritual transformation. The book outlines a "clear how" to establish a process to move believers toward spiritual maturity, excellence in our worship of Jesus and the elimination of mediocrity in our worship, love and service to God and others. ...more info
  • Not a typical church growth book.
    I almost passed this book up when I saw the amount of church growth books written by Thom Rainer. My bravery was rewarded with a book that stimulated thought on how ministries within a local church should not only fit together, but work towards the same goal. The goal is making disciples. At the end of each chapter are well thought out discussion questions. I will try to outline the book using as many of the authors' own words as I can.

    The authors state that "To have a simple church, you must design a simple discipleship process. This process must be clear. It must move people toward maturity. It must be integrated fully into your church, and you must get rid of the clutter around it." (p.26)

    A simple church is defined as "a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth." (p.60) Later the authors add the following to their definition: "The leadership and the church are clear about the process (clarity) and are committed to executing it. The process flows logically (movement) and is implemented in each area of the church (alignment). The church abandons everything that is not in the process (focus). (p. 68)

    The book begins by contrasting two imaginary churches: "First Church" is a complex church - one that has many great programs, but without an overarching focus. It feels disjointed and headed in multiple directions. "Cross Church" is a simple church. There is one overarching theme that ties all its ministries together. It's a short and simple statement - "loving God, loving people, and serving the world." (pp. 33-40)

    A majority of the material I found valuable was contained in the first 134 pages. The rest of the book has something to offer, but you wade through more and more church growth language. (The chapter on movement was my least favorite.) I thought the real value in the book was the questions it asked which made me think more deeply about our church and its ministries.

    Are people in your church truly being transformed? Are they growing as disciples of Christ? Or is everyone just busy? (Page 7) These are cutting questions. As leaders of a church, there is nothing more important (outside of salvation). Willow Creek recently took a hard look at themselves and realized they were not helping people to grow deep, just busy. The authors of Simple Church put forth a very viable solution: simplify. "Spiritual growth (sanctification) is the process of a believer being transformed into the image of Christ. Simple churches have chosen to align themselves with the way God works...with the discipleship process revealed in Scripture." (p.16) Many churches are "[s]o cluttered that many people are busy doing church instead of being the church (p 19)." "Imagine a church where you, as a leader, can articulate clearly how someone moves from being a new Christian to becoming a mature follower of Christ (p 27)"

    If your church's mission is to make disciples, then all the activities and ministries should contribute to that goal. Not only that, but the average attendee should be able to tell how a specific ministry is adding to the process, because the process is simple and easy to understand. If a church has many mission and vision statements spread among its ministries, there is a very good chance that there may be a multiplicity of ministry philosophies, possibly even working against each other or competing with each other.

    A simple model used in this book has three stages for spiritual growth: love God (worship service), love others (small groups), and then serve the world (ministry teams). (p.47) A person enters the process at the first stage (worship service) and moves through the other stages as they mature. Not only is the process simple, one can roughly track spiritual growth by the number of people involved at each stage. (The one flaw in this reasoning is that although this holds true for older generations, very often younger generations get involved first by doing, rather than by knowing. They enter in the process at the opposite end (serving), possibly before committing to Christ. Even so, these folks would be connected with a small group and serve in an environment where they would be discipled.)

    The rest of the book describes four elements that are necessary in a simple church: clarity, movement, alignment, and focus.

    1) Clarity (p. 70-74, 109-134) is "the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by the people." The authors note that "when there is no direction, people assume a direction or invent one. The church then moves aimlessly and off course." The church needs a clear ministry process to help people grow in Christ. "The culture of the church follows the culture of the leadership. The leaders' understanding and ownership overflow to everyone." If you are a leader, don't expect the congregation to join small groups if you're not in one!

    2) Movement (p.72-74, 135-163) is "the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment." This element involves assimilation, how someone is "handed off from one level of commitment to a greater level of commitment." Again, I don't agree that each "level of commitment" is a higher level as I have seen people come in at all levels. However, for those driven to measurement and counting, it's as close as you're going to get to counting something that may indicate spiritual growth. His ways are not our ways, and He uses measures unavailable to us (Proverbs 21:2). The point as my pastor pointed out, is that the authors want people to "move from being church observers to contributors." That's movement.

    The task of church leaders "is to place people in the pathway of God's transforming power." An ordered sequence of programs needs to reflect the process. "Simple churches move new believers into the life of the church. They are also purposeful in their treatment of new members." (p.157) The authors offer some insightful comments regarding new members and their importance in this section.

    3) Alignment (p.74-76, 165-195) is "the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process." Without alignment, "the church can be a multitude of sub-ministries," or even a group of sub-churches. "It is not enough to unite the church around the same what (purpose), but they also must be aligned on the same how (process). Imagine if you were building a house. If the team of contractors and builders agreed only on what was being built, you would have a problem. They would also need to be unified on the approach, on the plan. Otherwise the contractors and builders would be competing with one another for time, money, and scheduling preference." (p.168). The authors suggest churches recruit pastors and staff "on the process," have each pastor create a Ministry Action Plan (MAP) for each ministry year, and then hold them accountable for results. I believe this can have value, but there is also danger in not doing this correctly (read: Christ-centered). Too much emphasis on numbers could create unintended consequences - pastors missing important God-ordained moments with people in exchange for a shallow activity that build their numbers up. Be careful, Peter Drucker is no Jesus Christ!

    "The most challenging aspect of alignment is pulling existing ministries and existing staff in the same direction, especially if they have been moving in opposite directions." (p.187)

    4) Focus (p.76-78, 197-226) is "the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process." This is not an easy task. And even if you succeed, there "will be a constant temptation to abandon simplicity, to lose focus, to become cluttered." (p.203)

    Five critical elements to focus are 1) "Eliminate programs that do not fit [your] process, even if they are good;" 2) Limit adding new programs. Be very selective. Use "existing weekly programs for special emphasis/initiatives instead of adding new programs." 3) Reduce special events (!!!). Special events should be kept to a minimum so as not to compete with the essential programs that move people through the process. 4) Communication is vital - especially if programs and some special events are cut. The process must be easy to communicate (and remember); 5) Simple to understand: "It is vital that your process be understood because you will be saying no to everything else."

    Unfortunately the final chapter starts with the typical church growth scare tactic "change or die." Nevertheless, some good points are made. Complexity in a church is expensive - not only in time and money, but in the unnecessary lack of spiritual maturity in some people. The authors realize the need for church leadership, as shepherds, to move to simple slowly. The move will be painful for some. Ask God for discernment. Keep Christ in the center.

    The book ends with a look at Malachi 1 and then recaps the four main steps (Clarity, Movement, Alignment, and Focus) with the emphasis on implementation.

    I can't close the review without pointing out a few ideas I strongly disagree with. "Only God is the producer of growth." (p.26) This is a popular idea. If we have large numbers, then God must be doing something. Cults can fill stadiums - is this the result of God blessing them? Satanic lies can be very effective (Matt, 24:23,24; 2 Cor. 4:3, 4). Maybe I'm just over-sensitised by the amount of church growth literature I've read. The authors could just be calling the readers to humility as in 1 Corinthians 3:6.

    "And without a point of crisis, it is difficult to change." (p.33) This thinking is directly out of worldly business theory. Many "change agents" will work hard at promoting the perception of a crisis so they can more easily "sell" their ideas for change. The Christian view is that it is impossible to truly change without Christ. This is not splitting hairs - if the Body of Christ is to glorify God we must remain Christ centered, not crisis centered.

    A vibrant church is defined as a church that had "grown 5 percent a year for three consecutive years." (p.65) The focus on growth as the indicator of a vibrant church is tiresome. Also the research statistics presented are unimpressive. By the authors' definition the ministry of Jeremiah was a failure, and many churches in hostile areas. I don't think our Lord would agree.

    In closing, this book has a lot to offer. I recommend it. It is best if you got some of your church leaders together and went through the discussion questions together. You will be forced to think more critically about the relationship between your ministries/programs and their role in the disciple making process and spiritual growth of your congregation. Just don't expect a one-size-fits-all model.
    ...more info
  • Amazing Church Resource!
    Simple Church challenged our team greatly to think strategically about all we do and offer as a church. The book gave our leadership team some common language that we still utilize when discussing decisions. The book is an easy read, but is also challenging both personally and corporately to the body of Christ....more info
  • Great Book
    If you work in church life and you want to impact the lives of those around you as a church you must read this book!!...more info
  • Simple Church
    This book was excellent. It isn't rocket science or deep theology but is clear and offers insight for churches of various theological backgrounds. I read it and then bought enough for my core staff and key leaders!...more info
  • A "must-read" for all pastors and church staff members
    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

    ...more info
  • Simple, the way to go
    As the Pastor of Discipleship at my local church, I was so refreshed by the elegance and symmetry of Rainier and Geiger's approach. Pastor's are bombarded with gimmicks and contrived ministry methods. They all promise to revolutionize the task of creating discipleship environments where people can find Christ and learn to follow him. As a church grows, it is true that it has a tendency to become bloated with "fluff" programs and non-discipleship activity. This book is a lucid, dangerous call back to the uncomplicated and straightforward work of clarifying your process, developing the "handoffs" through the stages of discipleship, bringing every ministry into alignment with the process, and a commitment to crop every fluff program that doesn't fall into the process.
    Having said all this...
    my only real critique for the book is that it doesn't seem to allow for a certain degree of "messiness". Our particular church is ruthless in keeping an uncluttered ministry pipeline, but some ministries are a mess and necessarily so. Also, I believe though we can organize the ENTRY POINTS into various stages of discipleship, we must not force people through those channels. They must have the freedom to determine where they are on the process map, and engage without a lot of "pre-requisites". Discipleship is fluid in nature and our method, though simple, should be loose and accommodate the individual. That's my only push back for the book, but overall, I loved it....more info
  • Refreshing and Positive
    Rainer understands church like no one else and brings refreshment to the pastor who is struggling in the day to day grind. Encouragement and insight on every page, a must read for the pastor and staff member....more info
  • simple product review
    even if you don't agree with everything in the book, it is thought-provoking and challenging to those in church leadership. it appears to be a paradox in many ways--more work equals more results is what we've come to know and expect. the writers challenge us to do concentrated work--few things done better equals better results....more info
  • Simple yet Powerful
    Simple Church sounds like an oxymoron. If anyone has been involved behind the scenes at a church, they know its anything but simple. The book, Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples, states it should not be so! Now we are people and thus complex in ourselves. But the organization of said people doesn't have to be reflecting that complexity. I would agree and say that because life is so complex, we NEED to simplify our goals and how to achieve them in our personal (and corporate) lives.

    The book by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger is very well laid out. They set the vision. They give examples of churches that reflect the principles they stand behind. And then they explain the process clearly with direct application. It is refreshing that the book reflects the principles it proposes. My only beef is that the bones are solid but the stories and statics they give aren't really "moving". But hey, it doesn't mean the material isn'tbeneficial. Just don't expect a riveting novel.

    They proposes four main filters to help a church cut things that pull energy away from keeping it simple. We need to have CLARITY: "the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by the people" (111). How does a church do what it has been called to do? We need to have MOVEMENT: "the sequential steps in the process that causes people to move to greater areas of commitment" (139). When they understand the process, what do they do next and then... We need to have ALIGNMENT: "the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process" (168). The church itself must arrange itself into where she is movingpeople through. She must only place people and energies where she is encouraging all to go. This keeps resources (personal and capital) strategically placed where they have the most impact. Finally, we need to have FOCUS: "the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process" (203). This is where the rubber hits the road and following steps 1 -3 lead to this point. But if a church loses her focus then it will finditself where all our culture, society, and world will tend to go: chaos. Does the church have the guts to say no to good things for the best things?

    I readily recommend the reading and more importantly the applying of these simple principles. Let the church go against the grain of complexity and confusion. Let her stand firm with a clear and simple message and process that leads us through the mess and to our closer Lord with His purposes....more info
  • Great premise. Abundant in statistical research. But, compromises the sufficiency of scripture.
    Okay, I must admit, I had high expectations for this book. Since I went to Southern and knew the quality work that Rainer has done in the past, I expected no less than the best. Maybe I overshot myself just a tad, because the book wasn't all that great to me.

    Sure, the premise is absolutely true. Too many committees, too many programs, too many annual events bog a church down and cause them to lose their gospel focus. But MY reason for simplifying things is different than that of the book.

    For the book, it is simply a matter of pragmatism. Do what your church can do best, do it often, and keep that your focus and your church will grow.

    For me, I do it because the Bible calls legalism a sin. And most churches treat their committees, events, music, programs, etc as being on par with Scripture and refuse to let them go or change them with the demands of the changing culture or, more important, the demands of the church conforming to the image of Christ. That tight grip on "churchy" things is legalism and that is a sin.

    Losing your gospel focus is not just what keeps your church from growing, it is a SIN issue. It is often what causes church discipline problems, church splits, hurt families, etc. Avoiding those problems would be my reasoning for reevaluating the church and cutting off some of the cancerous cells. Having it grow my church is just icing on the cake.

    And this is my main problem with Rainer's book. He avoids the obvious theological/biblical evidence why simple churches seem to grow and instead goes the pragmatic route as evidence why it works.

    Another, less important issue I have is their fixation on the corporate world. Almost every chapter has a story about a corporation that simplified and refocused their goals. Why? Who cares if it works for them? The church is not a corporation. In fact, here are the Bible's words for the church:

    Body of Christ

    Corporation? Not in the Bible. So why use businesses as examples? All the evidence you ever need is already in the Bible itself. This is called the sufficiency of scripture. I like the examples of the churches that have implemented these principles, but the other examples I could care less about.

    You want a model of church simplification that has a theology behind it and takes seriously the sufficiency of scripture? Read Mark Dever's books: 9 Marks of a Healthy Church and The Deliberate Church.

    ...more info
  • Simple Church
    This is a great read and worthwhile. If you are looking for a book to help your church plan their mission statement and what programs and purposes to have this is ENLIGHTNING! This will change your thinking and help you do less but have much better purpose to what you offer for programs in the local church....more info
  • Great book that focuses on the point of it all: entering God's presence
    This book does an amazing job of bringing all of us back to the truest point of any ministry, personal or large-scale: helping others enter the presence of God, which then helps transform them into disciples who serve and give glory to Christ.

    The best part of this book is the fact that the message is, as the title indicates, utterly simple yet not superficial. The purpose of the church and the family of God is not a difficult one in terms of understanding but utterly difficult in terms of execution, which this book helps define and provides ideas on how to accomplish it in multiple ways.

    If you like this book, I highly recommend (if not demand) that you read, Craig Groeschel's, "Chazown" and J.G. Marking's "A Voice Is Calling," as it focuses on discipleship as the combination of desire and discipline, which draws the follower into the presence of God in all aspects of life.

    Both books are gread for group studies and must reads for anyone in the ministry....more info
  • Back to basics
    I have not finished the book, but it makes so much sense. Some church's try to do it all and spend so much time going in different directions. Simple Church brings everyone together and actualy does what God mandates. What a concept, do what the bible preaches....more info
  • The book is simple, the plan is simple.
    This is a good book and a fast read. Not mind-blowing, but certainly eye-opening. If you want to read it even faster; I'll sum it up for you; 1. Over-programmed churches confuse people and eventually all of the programs begin to suffer as they compete for people's mental and calendar space. 2. Successful, growing, churches eliminate all programs expect those that support and feed into their primary (and VERY simple) mission. The only improvement I might make is simplifying this book about simplicity. I imagine the authors could cut about 30 pages and have no problem still getting the message across loud and clear....more info
  • simplistic
    In this extremely simple and simplistic book, the authors make a simple proposal: effective and vital churches are simple, whereas complicated, cluttered, and over-programmed churches are much less vital. At first they had a hunch about this thesis based upon informal empirical observations about churches they noticed. Later, they did a statistical study that, they contend, verified their hypothesis. Finally, and this will come as no surprise, they found their thesis in the Bible. Simplicity, they contend in the subtitle to this book, returns us to "God's process for making disciples." After two thousand years the truth is out.

    Appealing unapologetically to corporate models like Google and Apple, according to Rainer and Geiger, "simple is in, complexity is out. . . complexity is not welcome." Keeping to their word, they offer an extraordinarily simple recipe for effective churches. First, they have a strong suspicion that most churches do not need a mere tweak here or there; they believe that most churches need a radical makeover. They need to start with clean sheet engineering. Next, they only need to follow four counsels: clarity, movement, alignment, and focus. Bingo, presto-chango.

    A friend gave me this book to read, and I was later surprised to see that it has been hailed as a leading book of the past year in the areas of church and pastoral studies. I suspect that it has tapped in to several overlapping realities-- the difficulties ( = complexities!) of pastoring well; the palpable frustrations that pastors experience when they don't; churches that are, in fact, poorly organized, needlessly complicated, and lacking focus; and the natural longing on the part of these pastors for some direct advice about what to do with this sad state of affairs.

    Despite the promises and rhetoric, this book, like every other technique and gimmick, will disappoint. No real nuanced definition of what constitutes an "effective" church is given, except, perhaps, for increased attendance. The marks of vitality that the authors return to over and over look suspiciously similar, generic, and already exist in most churches-- get parishioners to attend worship, study the Bible, join a small group, and learn to serve. Their study is narrowly limited to what they call "evangelical" churches, whatever that broad category might mean. With the size of an average church in America hovering at around 100 people, it's easy to imagine how a pastor will feel about a case study of a church that grew to 16,000 members in ten years. Finally, I myself have never experienced the Christian life or church as simple, and it strikes me as a false hope to suggest that it is. For an alternative viewpoint on pastoral call and identity, I recommend Henri Nouwen's little gem called In the Name of Jesus; Reflections on Christian Leadership, in which he construes the three temptations of Jesus (and Christian ministers) as the temptations to be relevant, spectacular, and powerful. ...more info
  • This will change the way you do church.
    Rainer and Geiger are not rebuilding the wheel with this book, a lot of it is information that we inherently know but have forgotten in the church. Church has gotten too complicated and they are challenging us to make it more direct and simple. They are challenging the church to make disciples. This book is amazing and I don't know one pastor who has read it that wasn't convicted of some things afterwards....more info
  • Powerful Ideas Poorly Conveyed
    3.4 stars

    One of the church leaders I read this book with said `I have not read a book this poorly written in a long time.' I have to agree. It was painful. As a physical scientist I found the `scientific method' a little suspect. It was highly redundant. Quite simply, this should have been a pamphlet.

    I had a couple concerns about the ideas as well. By simplifying everything you run the risk of homogenizing and reducing things to a lowest common denominator Christianity. We need to understand the nuance of niche, especially in large churches. Oversimplification runs the risk of annihilating the `micro-habitats' that makes a large church doable for some.

    So why would I give a book I have so maligned 3.3 *'s. The truth is, I almost gave it 4. While it should have been a pamphlet, it would have been a really good pamphlet. After all of the critiques both in form and idea, there is still a powerful message here that I support. Despite my critiques I am encouraged (almost without reservation) that my church is implementing these ideas. There are 3 assertions that the authors make that I whole heartedly embrace and, that I think are responsible for legitimate correlation in their data.

    1. Unified Description of a Clear Process: There is no substitute for a clearly and frequently articulated vision. I agree with the authors that this can not be stressed enough.

    2. Rejecting Inner-Organizational Competition: The church sets a uniform vision and pursues it together. The youth ministry and the women's ministry aren't competing for resources. They are for each other. More fundamentally, you limit the number of programs so that the Church does not keep its people from forming meaningful relationships outside of the church.

    3. 'Shooting Your Dogs': We are too afraid to discontinue ineffective programs or ministries because it will hurt someone's feelings. By limiting the number of programs you offer the people of God to actually have lives with family and the world. Get them out of the church.

    So I actually really resonated with many of the author's themes, but I recomend skimming.
    ...more info
  • Good Break From The Usual Fare
    To begin with, I think this book hits on a few very important points that get missed a lot of times in church growth theory. First and foremost being the need for churches to have a deliberate, and even simple, path of discipleship available to people. And on this point, the book makes its case well. Discipleship is crucial for the church, the authors are unapologetic about this fact, and they document several positive cases well.

    That being said, I think the book lost its focus from time to time, especially late in the text, and reverted to more standard, church-growth fare. This book is strongest when it stays away from the typical "here are some leadership tips and tricks" and focuses on its thesis: simple forms of church that make paths to discipleship easy to understand and engage in are healthy and desirable.

    I recommend this book for those who read a lot of church-growth theory. Some of it will be familiar, but a sizeable chunk will probably be new and very helpful.
    ...more info
  • Good in America, but based on a faulty current model
    I hesitate to give this book two stars because I actually enjoyed reading it. The writers seem to genuinely care about the Church and following Christ, which made it a joy to read. I also enjoyed the statistics and clear research they put into this work.

    The book will be great for mega-church leaders who whose churches are chock full of programs that don't flow together in a unified focus. They will be able to use this material to develop a clear vision, and orient everything in the Church around that vision. But therein lies my main issue with this book: it's based on a current Church model I believe to be faulty.

    This book operates on the understanding that Churches are program-oriented, which is assumed to be a good thing. I would argue that we have segregated the Church by age and interests (youth group, singles etc.), whereas the Church of our Lord is to be a family who knows each other and brings groups of all ages and interests into meaningful, personal fellowship. Perhaps God never intended for Churches to be as big as we have made them? Families ought to be together, not splintered into interest groups, regardless of an aligned focus and vision. A godly family may have programs, but it's oriented around relationships between God and each other more than anything else. Church is meant to be a body and a family, not a programmed institution.

    In the research a major aspect of what they consider a "vibrant and healthy" Church is one that is growing numerically. I would argue Biblically that sometimes the opposite may be true, that one should be concerned when people are flocking to a Church. At the cross Jesus had no followers who stayed with Him. Did He fail? Jesus seemed to be far more concerned with the quality of His followers than the number that followed Him.

    There is also an under-girding of thought in this work that people who are more involved are more spiritually mature. It seems to say that if we are progressing people from one program to more, they will therefore be spiritually mature and growing. But that's just not true. Many times people who are involved in activities will be leading secret lives of selfishness, merely showing a religious face at Church. Using this book's criteria for maturity, the Pharisees would be the most spiritually mature people in Jesus' day.

    My last critique of this book is that it ignores one simple fact of life: Life is messy. People have messed up lives, struggle with dark things, and spiritual maturity comes in many ways outside of Church programs, regardless of how focused and simple those programs may be. Most of my most spiritually challenging and meaningful times have been outside of assigned Church functions and programs.

    Overall this book was a good read, but I believe based on faulty assumptions. I understand that they were trying to help current Church leaders get rid of clutter and focus on what matters. For that I commend this book. Ministry should be simple and focused.


    - More people does not equal a better Church.

    - Better programs don't necessarily stimulate spiritual maturity, and being more involved in those programs doesn't equate to spiritual growth.

    - Disciples cannot be mass-produced in a Church factory. Spiritual growth exists in the context of genuine, transparent, and messy relationships....more info
  • Not a Bad Book - Just Nothing New
    The content of this book is "fine", but not overly impressive. The title "Simple Church", also describes the content, but only too well. The information is just that, too simple. Almost everything that is said in this book can be found in other books that are much better.

    I would suggest reading 7 Practices of Effective Ministry and Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley. These are much better reads and much more practical for church ministry....more info
  • "Simple Church" is simply great!
    Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples Rainer and Geiger do their homework, reach strong conclusions, and express them with utmost clarity and simplicity. I have been working through this book with the leaders in my church and there is a level of excitement about it that surprises even me! We are coming up with a simple process for the fundamental task of God's mission, namely "making disciples", that will unify and solidify the entire ministry of our local church for years to come....more info
  • Keep It Simple Stupid
    Here is a good book for all churches out there. I think that all of us can begin to complicate things if we are left alone and things are left unexamined. In this fast pace of the church world we are often times rushed and so it is that many things go unchecked and the result is complexity, over-programming and frazzled volunteers and pastors.

    If you read this book, which i do recommend, be ready to truly be honest with yourself and be ready to make some changes. But the end result will be good....more info
  • excellent guide for ministry strategy and structure
    Another leader in ministry let me know about this book. I received it and couldn't put it down. It highlights and presents practical solutions to the issues many have experienced at churches with many good things going on, but ultimately not leading anywhere or making many new disciples. Stagnation is not God's plan.

    Over the past year our organization has studied and put into play much of North Point's strategy. While there are many similarities, don't think this is North Point part 2. This book demonstrates the underlying brilliance that has helped many churches grow strategically, of which North Point is one.

    Thankfully the book's basis is research, so it's not a "we prefer this model...or that model just because we like it." This doesn't present a model but a basis for building or re-building your model. Bottom line: How successful you wish to be will largely be related to how simple you're able to design or prune to.

    Use this book as a staff and get it to the elders and others of influence. Highly recommend....more info
  • Excellent insite into the direction of the church
    I found this to be a very informative book, easy to read with much relevance to the church today. I highly recomment it for anyone concerned about the future direction of the church. CWS...more info
  • Good book, but lacking universality
    Though I agree in principle with the "Simple Church" concept, that every church needs to drastically simplify what it is doing so that it can do a better job of making disciples, I was a tiny bit disappointed with some of the methods and statements the authors used.

    The book is based on a survey of hundreds of growing churches across the country which experienced at least 5% growth each year for at least three years. They surveyed these churches on what they were doing and how they were doing it. Here are my complaints:

    First, it does not appear that they asked the growing churches they surveyed where their "growth" was coming from. Much of it could have been transfer growth. I don't mind "transfer growth" if Christians are leaving sick churches to attend healthy ones, but that is not the reason most Christians transfer. Most just want to go where the best show is.

    Second, it seems they only surveyed larger churches (of 300 or more) and churches with buildings. This is odd since about 90% of the 485,000 US churches are under 80 people. Also, the most "simple" churches in the country are house churches (of 30 or less). It would be interesting to see if his stats fit with house churches.

    Finally, it seems that there is a real break down in the ability of the churches that were surveyed to get their people into community service (mission). Though the people may be progressing through the simplified discipleship track, few make it to the goal of mission involvement. I wonder if this isn't because Mission should be placed first, as suggested by other books on the market (e.g. The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch).

    Of course, despite these "complaints" of mine, I do think it is a really good book since most churches desperately need simplification.
    ...more info
  • a must!
    excellent book, crystal clear and simple. it goes to the essential and it's very efficient...and it works, i higly recommend it if you want to stop playing the "church game" and start pursuing the great commission of our lord....more info
  • A Must Read for All Church Members
    This book is a must read for all church members, not just leaders. Churches are trying to be everything to everybody. Thus, they are becoming less effective in reaching new people and in helping believers develop in spiritual maturity. Simple, but effective....more info
  • Concise and practical
    Well, it would be awfully ironic if the book wasn't easy to understand. Fortunately, the authors do with the book exactly what they are calling leaders to do with their churches. They outline a simple structure for streamlining churches and letting loose the baggage that slows churches down.

    The process is...simple (sorry to repeat). Churches should seek clarity, alignment, movement, and focus. Clarity is the singleness of purpose, stated in a single phrase. Movement is making sure there is a process of spiritual development that runs through the ministries of the church that fulfills the purpose. Alignment is the process of making sure that all the ministries of the church cannel people through a similar movement to fulfill the purpose. And focus is the challenging process of saying "no" to everything that distracts the church from its purpose. The authors have decided on this clear process as a saving grace to churches, repeat it fluidly, and walk the reader through all four steps.

    The theory is based on a study of a number of churches that were considered thriving and many that were not. The authors say that their data shows highly significant difference between thriving churches that simplified and complex churches that did not.

    The only part of this book, or the genre, that ought to give the reader pause is that the authors presume that ministry requires a strategic process through which people are funneled on the way to spiritual growth. While that is the reality of modern, institutional church management, it seems to overrule the fluid and organic (if not disorganized) ministry of Jesus and the disciples while co-opting their names. This is not a major critique of the book, just the observation that business management principles are governing the church whose founder had very little to say about business management.

    Nonetheless, for those of us who find ourselves dealing with the necessities of management, this book is an essential read. It's well-written, accessible, and offers the bird's eye view that a lot of churches miss....more info
  • Simple Church
    A great book, every Christian should take the time to read Simple Church.Full of imformation to help any Church body that wants to grow, and the book will help them through the process with simple steps....more info
  • Every Ministry Leader should read.
    We read this as Staff and Elders of a 100+ family church, and it helped us enter into new (and old) directions and proceedures. We figured out that we had entirely too much organization and far too many rules.

    If you let it, this will revolutionize your view of how to do church....more info
  • Very helpful. Recommended for all Christian leaders....
    I recommend this book for all Christians serious about our pursuit of Christ. This is not only for 'paid' Church leaders but for all believers participating in 21st century church. Understanding the findings helps believers understand what so often ails us systematically - and how we may remedy it.

    That said, I believe the authors should have been more prescriptive about the fact that 'small groups'/'care groups' as a Biblically necessary part of being 'simple'. I'd bet that a statistical analysis of their churches will show small groups to be highly significant to a vibrant church. I don't see how one could have an authentic and simple church without having small groups as the church grows in size.

    Secondly, though no fault of the authors, another prescriptive key to being 'simple' is the regaining of the centrality of family in church structures including the small groups. For this, one need to read some of the cutting edge writing arising out of the homeschool movement.

    ...more info
  • Good ideas amid the fluff
    I want to like this book more. It has some great ideas, but it's so obviously padded, which I find frustrating. Again, the ideas seem solid, but it feels like reading an infomercial....more info
  • Thought provoking
    Simple church causes one to stop, think and pray. Good for all of us to do....more info
  • Thought-provoking
    Based on actual research data, the authors present a model for ministry and program design and follow-through which emphasizes simplicity, consistency, and follow-through. The key elements in the authors' words are: clarity/movement/alignment/focus...more info
  • Best book I've seen on how to do "church"
    This book very "simply" and concisely lays out some problems within many of today's churches and offers real solutions on how to get back to what the church is biblically called to be. Based on a study of successful and not so successful churches, the authors conclude that churches should throw out those distracting and ineffective activities that use up limited resources and compete with real discipleship making. Instead, a church should focus on bringing people into community with God and each other, helping them reach spiritual maturity. Then send them out into the kingdom to serve God and to serve others. The book presents a simple 3 step process - evangelize, disciple, serve. The second part of the book backs up its ideas with several interesting case studies....more info
  • Great way to look at revamping church...
    When I started to read this book, I had absolutely no grounds for either thinking I would love the book or hate the book. I just wanted to read it. I actually had never heard of it as I am not a Senior Pastor, but what caught my attention is the desire to see our church focus on what God has the church here for. Not our programs, events, etc. but just literally..."Why did God leave the church here on this earth?" I thought this book would aid in this understanding.

    What is interesting is a lot more study and data went into this book than I had really thought. From the sounds of it they had over 400 churches do surveys, they went and spoke to different church leaders in both person and over the phone (from what I can gather). This truly was a big deal. The whole basis of this book is to see what "kind" of churches are surviving our post Christian era. The reason this thought came to mind is that Eric Geiger had started to take a simpler model for his own church that he is the Executive Pastor at and see if they had "caught on to something."

    This book is very well written on how to get your church from a busy program oriented church to a more simple focused church on what the church feels as though Christ has called them to be. Here is what I mean. It is a top down approach instead of a bottom up approach. You are to start with the process that new converts/new members are to start at in the church and bring them through to maturing believers in Christ. Whatever you believe this looks like in steps you need to start there first. So, an example might be that you believe everyone should "Know Jesus, then start maturing in their faith, serving God and then seeking the lost" then you should design everything you do to correspond with each one of those steps. If one of your programs doesn't fit, then throw it out. It might be hard at first, but this is to really keep the church on mission. Also, if you have too many programs for one of the steps, it needs to be thrown out as well. This is meant to stop churches from doing a lot of things mediocre to doing a smaller amount of things very well. This is the very basic idea of this book. But I just hit on the tip of the ice berg.

    While I believe the book is well written and well documented I believe that they would like their stats to be better than they actually are. When they sent out the surveys they had statements and had the church leader respond with, "Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Mildly Disagree, Mildly Agree, Agree, Strongly Agree." They then took the stats and wrote a book based on each finding.

    Here is my issue with some of the stats. They aren't constant and not very overwhelming at places. They aren't constant because when the leaders responded weakly to a question they might include, "We found that vibrant churches agreed to some degree to the following 'X' amount of the time." When the leaders responded strongly then they would say something like, "We found that vibrant churches agreed or strongly agreed to following 'X' amount of time." So, the findings were all over the board in some instances. This didn't happen much, but enough to catch my attention.

    The other thing that I found odd, was that they were overly impressed with a statement even if only a minority of the vibrant church leaders agreed with a statement. Let me give you an example:

    "We asked church leaders if they have a system in place to evaluate if people are progressing through their process. Of the vibrant churches 27% strongly agreed or agreed with this compared to 9% of the comparison churches. Vibrant church leaders agreed or strongly agreed three times that of comparison church leaders that they measure the effectiveness of their process." Eric Geiger, Pages 121,122

    This means that 73% of the vibrant churches weren't "sold" that this was important but this is supposed to wow me because it is three times that of comparison churches? Not really. This was discouraging that this was thought to be overwhelming evidence on some of these questions.

    With all that said. This book is still very very good. I really enjoyed the practicality of the book and the effort that Eric and Thom put into to find what is being put into place in churches across America. I actually fully believe in what they are talking about, I just don't believe what they have to say about every single question asked is as overwhelming as they would like us to believe. This happened a lot in the book, but it wasn't the focus of the book, so I can look past it.

    I would really recommend this to any church that feels as though they are doing a lot, but accomplishing nothing. Lots of programs, but few converts and few people being changed for the glory of God. Very easy read, very practical and something that you won't look to and say, "impossible." Highly Recommended
    ...more info
  • Good for discussion
    Great for church leaders to read and discuss. There are some really good ideas here, but also some tough questions that need to be asked of the authors' theories. Rather than taking a pragmatic approach to church, I would suggest a biblical approach, even if it's not all that "simple."...more info
  • Five Star Book
    This book comes along side the vision i have had for years, but this book puts the research along with the nuts and bolts to make it happen.
    great book that i will read over and over - i am purchasing a copy for all my staff to read as well....more info
  • Good Ideas but not a lot of substance
    I thought this book had some great ideas. Churches would do well to follow their advice in the busy world we live in. The only problem is that they could have made it about a quarter the length they did. I have never read such a repetitive book before. They say about 4 interesting things in the book and then repeat them over and over and over and over and over again with basically the same language. It was a very tough read for me because I was fairly bored for most of it. That being said, it's a good book for church leadership to read and discuss. ...more info
  • A Professor's and Pastor's Perspective
    Watch Video Here: Let me introduce or re-introduce you to the outstanding book on systematic disciplemaking and strategic growth in your church ministry. ...more info


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