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Simple Church 03 AN EXTREME MAKEOVER

As you might already have guessed R & G open this chapter by making a play on the Extreme Makeover television show, after drawing the connection between the radicalness of change those TV types bring they suggest the Simple Church changes are no less radical or inclusive. Moving from the frame setup by the illustration R & E dive into defining the Simple Church, and then explaining the four words they find most helpful in discussing it: Clarity, movement, alignment, and focus. They close out the chapter by talking about another biblical character in relation to their discussion, this time its Hezekiah; as well as using a cultural figure, Hans Hofmann.

If the change the Simple Church approach brings is radical its because, R & G asure us, “many churches need a redesign.” They’re not talking about simply flipping churches physical space they’re talking about flipping their discipleship space, “We mean the design for discipleship. We mean the design of church ministry. We are talking about how a church is designed and structured so people can be transformed by God’s grace.” “Design” is an important word to R & G, they suggest that just as Ty – the leader of the design team on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition – is a designer, so to are church leaders. And sense spiritual growth is a process, “it would make sense for church leaders to design their churches around the process that leads to spiritual growth and vitality.” R & G give their readers an abreviated definition of a Simple Church, and then latter give them the full definition. The first definition is as follows; “A simple church is a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth.” They explain this definition phrase by phrase before acknowledging that before you and I as readers really consider taking this call to change seriously we might need to hear how they, themselvs became convinced of it.

How did R & G get convinced? Glad you asked, “First, as we interacted with vibrant and growing churches, we observed that these churches had a clear process for discipleship…Second, we continually heard a cry for help from church leaders.” After both their intial interaction and awareness of a problem they developed a case study which they applied to hundreds of churches, and then went an extra mile and reapplied the case study again to more churches. At the end of their recounting of this they give you and I the longer definition of what a Simple Church is;

“A simple church is designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth. 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).”

“Ok,” you say, “I now have their definition of what a Simple Church is, but what do they mean by clarity, movement, alignment, and focus? Do they discuss these in more depth?” Yes they do, in fact they do so imediately after giving us the defintion. Here goes.

  • Clarity – Clarity is the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by the people…clarity involves certainty, and it eliminates confusion.
  • Movement – Movement is the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment. Movement is about flow. It is about assimilation. Movement is what causes a person to go to the next step…Movement is what happens in between programs.
  • Alignment – Alignment is the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process. Aligment to the process means that all ministry departments submit and attach themselves to the same overarching process.
  • Focus – Focus is the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process. Focus most often means saying “no.” Focus requires saying “yes” to the best and “no” to everything else. While movement is the most difficult simple church element to understand, focus is also the most difficult element to implement.

R & G close the chapter out by saying the idea of being a simple revolutionary is an old one, according to them Hezekiah himself was a revolutionary for being simple. Which was demonstrated in Hezekiah’s destruction of the idols that ‘cluttered’ the lives of Israel (a bit weak of an illustration if you ask me). As well as an example from a famous artist, Hans Hofmann, according to Hofmann “if you want the necessary to stand out, you have to get rid of the unnecessary.”

Afterthoughts:

This chapter reminded me of two conversations I had recently, one with a friend at All Souls Fellowship who shared with me the most valuable thing they as a church learned from this book – clarity. He was able to state the purpose of their community in under five minutes, it was simple but strategic. The other conversation I had was with the senior pastor at Big Creek Church at a local church planters network for the Atlanta area called New Churches Network. This pastor (John) said the principle of the Simple Church is straightforward but he said don’t be fooled it can be very difficult to implement.

Even as I consider my own church, I’d have to admit the ideas of both movement and alignment are challenging even from a distance…