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Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples Paperback – June, 2011
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About the Author
Thom S. Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, one of the largest Christian resource companies in the world. He is also a best-selling author and leading expert in the field of church research. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons and three grandchildren and live in Nashville, Tennessee.
Eric Geiger serves as one of the Vice Presidents at LifeWay Christian Resources, leading the Resources Division. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including Creature of the Word and the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church.
Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.
Based on a study of 88 churches, this production discusses the concept of simplicity as it relates to spirituality. The authors compare church attendance to inviting guests into one's home. In a melodious baritone, Grover Gardner delivers their description of how guests arrive in the entryway, which is like the church foyer. They then liken guests in the living room to church attendees sitting in pews for a sermon. When the house guests become friends, they say, they're invited into the kitchen, and they liken that to attendees joining the church and becoming involved with the ministry. Gardner narrates with full attention to details as he interprets the authors' urging that churches return to simple methods of sharing the gospel. G.D.W. © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
In the first section of the book, the writers start by making the case for simplicity (3-27), and then show what a simple church looks like when contrasted with a cluttered church (29-56). Nearly every aspect of the administration of the church looks different. In probably the most important chapter of the book, the writers lay out a definition of a simple church (60-62) and then provide the four points of groundwork for the simple church process and the second section of the book (70-78). But before diving into the research, the writers provide the reader with three real-life examples of simple churches in action (83-105).
In the second section of the book, the four stages of a simple and healthy church are discussed in depth. The first stage is clarity. The church needs clarity on what its mission really is. The second stage is movement. The church needs to continually be handing people off to keep them engaged in discipleship. The third stage is alignment. The church needs to bring unity from the diversity of the Body. The fourth and final stage is focus. The church needs to run everything through its philosophical and guiding process. The book closes with an explanation of how to develop the process that fits best with your church (227-241) and two appendices which deal with minutia about the survey and some frequently asked questions about the authors' approach in the work.
This book reverses the trend which prevailed in the previous decades which emphasized massive and numerous programs as the key to church growth. Rainer and Geiger instead start with the people that Christ has called the Church to disciple and strive to focus on getting the Great Commission work done in their lives. While this book provides a number of true to life examples of simplicity in ministry, if the reader is seeking a detailed "how to" manual, this book will not provide that solution. This concept is not a ministry model, but an articulation of how to create a ministry philosophy and then strain out everything that does not fit that philosophy. The writers will not preach about what the final product should look like.
Overall there are few negatives with the overall approach. If there was one item that I think could have been addressed better is this idea of phases or stages of discipleship (e.g., 62). The way it comes across at times is that the believer needs to be moved from one phase and into another along their journey, but it seems that this approach would be at odds with biblical commands to walk in the simple Gospel. But I do not think this is what was intended by the writers when they speak of phases of discipleship.
So this work is one which is incredibly clear and avoids making the reader feel guilty for not having all the big programs and ministries of the mega church. In the end, the reader will be motivated to draft a clearer statement of purpose and philosophy, explain it, implement it, and eliminate whatever does not fall within that paradigm. Any pastor, staff member, or lay leader in a church should read this book and would benefit from reading it.
It is an easy read and has case studies of real churches.
However, this research seems not to have been published in a peer reviewed journal and the raw data seems not to be available for inspection. The data comes exclusively from Baptist and other evangelical churches. The authors have made no attempt to validate that their results have wider applicability.
Ultimately, the intention is to increase disciples and get people plugged into service. I think that is great.
This could work if you already have mature, godly men (and women) in the churches. In reality, if there was discipling already going on, this book would not be necessary. Discipling comes out of a heart that loves Jesus and loves people.
Also, this method may not work for some families. The fathers should be equipped with the discipling tools for their family. The discipling should not be done for the parents.
I am sure the intention is well meaning on the author's part.
I just can't see the New Testament Church in the book of Acts following this process.