In case you didn't know, I believe Simple Church is healthier and more effective than the church growth and leadership-centric models used by many today. You may disagree with me, but if ministry leaders would honestly evaluate the current state of their ministry, they would conclude that much of what they do isn't working. The church is not accomplishing the goal of making disciples that make disciples.
It is no secret that our culture is quickly moving away from the church as we know it. Church attendance is declining in every state, and the number of folks identifying as Christians is dropping as the number of those identifying as nothing rises. The stress of ministry is causing many pastors and ministry leaders to not only walk away from the church but to turn to drugs, alcohol, sexual infidelity, and in some cases, suicide to deal with the pressures of pastoral ministry.
In our culture, ministry success is measured by the number of people in attendance, the amount of money given weekly, and the size of sanctuaries or the number of campuses. I've never been asked, "How many disciples are making disciples?" or "How many people have responded to the Gospel?" I have been asked about our Sunday morning attendance. Attendance is king in the church world.
Most church folks cannot access all the moving parts of the machine we call church. Behind the scenes, ministry teams are tasked with filling seats, raising money, and keeping the masses happy, so they will continue to come to the building and participate in spiritual events. Every week, a great deal of pressure is placed on the Lead Pastor and the pastoral staff to provide unforgettable experiences for men, women, youth, and kids. This pressure leads to the stress mentioned above. But what if there is a better way to do this thing we call church?
Scripture describes a community of ordinary men, women, and children responding to the Gospel, getting baptized, immediately gathering in homes, sharing meals, sharing their possessions with those in need, praying, discussing the word of God, and fellowshipping with regularity. As a result, the Lord added to their number daily. This sounds much better than the way we do it now.
These early Christians (men, women, and children) actively participate in the day-to-day life of following Jesus. This group of folks was not limited by a specific location, day of the week, or time to worship, fellowship, read scripture, and meet the needs of others. These folks met regularly to eat, pray, read scripture, and grow in their love for Jesus and one another.
There is a disconnect between what we see in the pages of the New Testament and what we see in churches across America. From my experience, no one disagrees with what the book of Acts says about being a disciple and making disciples. When I share how we have decided to abandon the dead paradigm that many churches pursue and obey Jesus by sharing the Gospel, making disciples, and planting churches, there is a resounding "YES! That's what we should be doing!"
The more I read through scripture and hear from missionaries that are working to reach the unreached, there is no doubt that we are on the right path as we work to equip and train believers to share the Gospel, make disciples, engage the lost and broken in our community with the Gospel and prayer, and plant churches in every neighborhood in our county. Jesus did not call us to a sedentary, inactive life among the spiritually apathetic. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, carry our cross, and follow Him (Lk.9:23, Mt. 16:24.)
Expecting professional clergy to provide amazing services, spiritual events, and programs week in and week out is not biblical. Instead of making disciples, we have created a finicky consumer culture that passively attends church once a month, is silent about the Gospel, and avoids community engagement.
We need a paradigm shift. We need to remove everything that has hindered and handicapped the body of Christ and revisit the original design. We must focus our efforts and resources on multiplying disciples and churches and simplifying how we gather.
Simple Church is better, healthier, and more effective.