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Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples Paperback – Illustrated, June 1, 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 is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the bestselling 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, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.
- Paperback : 296 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0805447997
- ISBN-13 : 978-0805447996
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.77 x 9 inches
- Publisher : B&H Books; New edition (June 1, 2011)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #47,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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First, the emphasis upon research data. They touch on the fact that a healthy church is not about numbers, but about people living as God called them, but that acknowledgement is buried beneath chapter and chapters which point towards the size or numerical growth of a church as an indicator of whether or not it was healthy. I love research data, but there were also times when their research indicated that there were a decent amount of churches which did not meet their definition of "simple" yet were still thriving. This latter reality did not seem to be addressed. I would have appreciated at least a chapter or (minimally) a few pages discussing why this might "work." But most troubling, the emphasis upon data instead of an emphasis upon what a healthy spirituality looks like.
Second, there is minimal scriptural support for the principles expressed in the book. This is the most troubling to me. While scripture is quoted and referenced (in some chapters more sparingly than others), upon a closer examination frequently the scripture doesn't actually support or advocate the point. It is used illustratively or to support a peripheral point supporting the main thesis of the chapter. All this adds up to a "sense" of scriptural support, but without there really being too much solid, scriptural exegesis supporting the points of the book. The research data supports it, but the scriptural support is weak (in this, I'm referring to what is communicated in the book; Rainer and Geiger are smart guys, and I'm sure they have more scriptural support than they actually communicated in the book).
Third, I was sorely disappointed by the lack of an articulation of any sort of ecclesiology in the book. I think this flows from the first two problems mentioned above. Better scriptural support would have led them to summarize scripture in a theological manner, which would have led to at least a minimal articulation (a single chapter, at least) outlining primary biblical elements of a church. For what this book was arguing. With the subtitle "Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples" a failure to adequately point towards some biblical foundations for discipleship for a church (even if these would be general values) is a pretty huge oversight. This book is, at best, a book focusing on leadership principles for leading a religious organization. But the leadership principles advocated are more commercially based than scripturally founded.
Lastly, the writers refer to themselves as "nerds" and the book as a "nerdy" book. As a "nerd" myself, I found the simplistic writing style of the book insulting and ultimately detrimental to the book's argument. The simplicity glossed over elements which needed a deeper treatment. I suspect the simple writing style was an attempt for the execution of the argument to match the title, but as a pastor who wanted to really dig his teeth into this idea, I was left with more questions than answers.
The reason I really wrestle with recommending this book, and why (in the end) I gave it four stars instead of three, is that overall the book does advocate some good principles which actually have some scriptural merit. Unfortunately I think the book over-values its research data (an entirely different cultural and social problem in the West), and that undercuts how a leader should be truly evaluating his/her church: through eyes and values shaped by scriptures. Rainer and Geiger do not deny the latter (they actually advocate it in the postscript), but their practice in the book elevates data points over scriptural exegesis.
Can it be a helpful book? Yes...but it need to be balanced with other books that do proper exegetical and ecclesiological book. This book would probably best be used after studying books that do the proper scriptural and theological work, because then the ideas contained in Simple Church could be critiqued and analyzed in light of the scriptural and exegetical work that has already been explored.
Overall, the intention of the 2 authors is solid and helpful for certain church applications. One thing that these two guys do well is pushing the mandate for making disciples. As it is, well, a mandate. The American church does a horrid job of bringing this transformation to our countrymen.
My major letdowns with the book are three-fold:
1. The thinking is very well-developed, but the writing is painfully repetitive, even in the first three chapters. By the time you reach chapter six, it's unbearable. I can see the value in repeating information that's brand-new to some older folks. But this goes way beyond what's necessary.
2. My second letdown with the book may have to do with the authors' generations. They do a fanatastic job in celebrating the various ways "simple church" can be applied broadly across the body. But when it comes down to it, it vastly oversimplifies the diversity in that same body, and completely overlooks God's designing these tens of thousands of communities differently, on purpose. After reading thru, their approach is good but applies a one-size-fits-all approach to making churches simple. Fine. But there is a huge loss in individuality as under their guidance, it seems churches would lose sight of the niche things they were created for.
3. A third thing: although the Sunday church may not disappear any time soon, they state in the book the worldwide bricks and mortar church is in great decline. That is clear and well-documented for two decades now.
But they don't seem to address why. Old, simplistic church models and old mindsets seem to be the reason. The younger generation wants less and less to do with a Sunday service, or any formal service, regardless of how "innovative" they may appear. So the whole model of "inviting people to church" presumably to get saved and be transformed (made into disciples) is horribly outdated and painfully oblivious of the modern culture we all live in. And by the way, Jesus told [us] to go. Not to tell others to [come] to church.
Ah, the comfort mindset of our people.
I'm sorry for the criticisms. Though these authors do a decent, albeit cumbersome, job in explaining the simple church approach, it's almost like: too little too late for our generation. We need models for doing community [outside] the four walls rather than new models for getting people to come to a bland and demeaning and disrespected existence. Just because a simple church may appear to be thriving doesn't indicate that they're doing all they were designed to do. We settle for so little, it's disheartening to watch.
Cmon people, God never intended the Body of Christ to beckon the world to tie themselves to the four wall model.
The most powerful transformation doesn't happen in the Sunday services anyway. The authors even say that Sunday's aren't where real community happens. Transformation (not just for church-goers, but for the rest of the world) happens when the church dispersed and made themselves useful [in] the world, not by camping out on Sundays (or midweek). ie: God forcing them out of their comfortable lifestyles into the needy world by sending Roman persecution on them. There's a lot to be said for getting discipled on-the-way when you're already in motion [outside] the church and productive in the world.
Ok, the book is fine. It's a decent read for those stuck in church, especially if they lack cohesive vision and a simple strategy for discipling. But it would've been better back in the 1960's and 70's when churches stared to get too complicated. These days, I'd say it's a very basic starting point. For other world-focused believers and ministries, "simple church" can help streamline your thought processes. But please apply it and move on. There's so much to do and so little time.
Top reviews from other countries
Church is The People who live in the Faith with God in their hearts. Christianity is not just a "religion", it is just that, a Faith.
What this book does is help clarify what is important, and what mere dross and prevarication!
This book is packed full of wisdom and research that will open your eyes up to the effect a simple church structure will have over a complicated church structure and how so often we think to do more we need to do more, when in this day and age, to do more we need to do less more effectively!
I've you run a church, pastor a church or want to get involved in church leadership at some point in your life this will have been a fantastic book to have gone through, easy to read, understandable and with a few fun moments!
Well worth the few pounds it will cost you to learn a few life lessons we all need!
If you're a church leader read this, I don't think you'll be disappointed
I've read it and now I have to do something about it. True of any great book.