How North Church Can Become a Simple Church
The research is compelling -- simple churches are growing churches.
We have been dealing with the concept of the Simple Church in our afternoon sessions of "Extreme Makeover: North Church Edition." Some have missed the first two sessions. I am not sure why. We have been talking about this important discussion for the last two months. These afternoon sessions are priority appointments on the church calendar. I would strongly encourage any leader or anyone interested in leading to be present and participate in these critical discussions regarding the future direction of our congregation. We will be meeting this afternoon and for the next two Sabbaths.
So what is a Simple Church Process? The four elements of a simple church are 1. clarity, 2. movement, 3. alignment, and 4. focus. Because a Simple Church is "a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through stages of spiritual growth," there must be clarity.
When we speak of clarity we are talking about the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by everyone. Clarity involves certainty, and it eliminates confusion. Our process must be clearly defined. So for the last couple of months I have been trying to communicate a clear process to the church. The North Philadelphia church seeks to be a warm fellowship where individuals and families are invited to meet Jesus, taught how to walk with Jesus, and empowered to work for Jesus. I hope by now you are also coming to understand that this process is sequential.
The first step is to meet Jesus in worship. The second step is to walk with Jesus – to learn who Jesus is and learn from Jesus. That is discipleship. The third step is to engage in service to humanity out of a heart and mind being made like unto Christ's (Philippians 2:5). That is to say, we must have a passion for the lost, a burden for souls. The third step is to work for Jesus. He said that when we have done it unto the least of these we have done it on to Him; therefore, when we work through our spiritual gifts in the areas of our passion in unity with our brothers and sisters serving the lost, the needy, the confused, and the imprisoned, we are indeed working for Jesus.
This sequential process is not only what we want to happen for us corporately, that is, as an entire church body. It is also the vision we have for every individual member. We want every member of the North Philadelphia Church to meet Jesus on a daily basis. We want every member of the North Philadelphia Church to have a time of personal worship and devotion. In other words, we want every member of North Church to walk with Jesus on a daily basis. We want every member of the North Philadelphia church to work for Jesus on a daily basis if in no other way than through random acts of kindness prompted by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
We want our weekly programming to reflect this Simple Church Process. The process of meeting Jesus, walking with Jesus, working for Jesus should happen for our congregation as a whole weekly. We want people to meet Jesus in worship every week. We want our members to walk with Jesus by learning about him and participating in a small group/Sabbath school class every week. It is our desire that those who call the North Philadelphia Church their home would be engaged in active ministry through their spiritual gift every week.
When we speak of movement we are talking about the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater levels of commitment. Movement is about the flow. It is about assimilation.
The element of movement is the most difficult simple church element to understand. Thing about it, too many of us are stuck in step 1 (meeting Jesus). We have to give serious energy to helping move people along so that they are going deeper. Movement is what happens between the programs. Movement is about how an individual is handed off from one level of commitment to a greater level of commitment to Christ and his church. How a church is designed to move a person from being an observer to being a full disciple of Jesus Christ is movement.
According to Rainer and Geiger, Simple Churches pay attention to how they hand people off from level to level. Simple churches know that as the flow of the process increases, so does the potential that people will progress through the process. So we must design a ministry process where programs are placed as tools along the process. That means we cannot afford to have isolated programs just to have them; rather, programs are tools that help our people mature into disciples of Jesus Christ.
To implement the movement elements, we must take a fresh look at the weekly church calendar and the regularly scheduled programs. All programs must be placed in sequential order along with menstrual process. This is what creates movement in a ministry process.
We speak of alignment were talking about the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the Simple Ministry Process. Alignment to the process means that all ministry departments submit and attach themselves to the same overarching process. Alignment ensures the entire church body is moving in the same direction, and in the same manner. When a church is fully aligned, all ministries are operating from the same ministry blueprint. Each ministry department mirrors the process in that particular area. Without alignment, the church can be a multitude of sub ministries, in which each ministry has its own leaders who are only passionate about bear specific ministry. They rarely identify with the entire church but are deeply committed to their own philosophy of ministry. A church that lacks alignment does not feel like one body. It feels more like a building that houses a wide variety of ministries.
All churches naturally drift away from alignment. Most of the time it does not get addressed. There are many reasons why it doesn't get addressed. For one, it is painful to do so because committed people who have been around for a long time are passionate about their particular way of doing ministry. Sadly, they are more passionate for their area then for the church as a whole. Addressing misalignment also takes time and energy. It costs something to address it. Unfortunately, it costs more not to address misalignment.
And finally there is focus. When we speak of focus we are talking about the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process. Focus requires saying yes to the best and no to the rest.
While movement is the most difficult simple church to understand, focus is the most difficult element to implement. It takes deep conviction and guts, say Rainer and Geiger. Focus does not make church leaders popular. But Jesus did not call us to be popular, He asked us to be faithful to His call to make disciples. No one promised that doing God's will would make one celebrated. But we will be able to stand before the righteous judge on the apron of eternity knowing that we did what we could.
Focus is the element that gives power and energy to clarity, movement, and alignment. Without focus, the church becomes cluttered despite its process. Without focus, the process is unrecognizable because so many other programs and events surround it. Without focus, the process is buried somewhere underneath a myriad of special events and activities.
Simple Churches abandon all that is outside of the Simple Church Process because it threatens to steal attention and energy from the mission, from that which has been determined as necessary.
Simple Church leaders ask the difficult questions. They want to be sure that every proposed program or ministry will fit neatly into the ministry process before it is implemented. They view everything through the lens of the simple process.
This afternoon we will be answering a few questions: 1. Which of the four elements of a simple church do we think will be the most challenging for North church? Then we're going to make a list of all of our churches programs and activities. And we will answer the question: 2. What do these have in common? Is it clear how they contribute to our overall vision? And finally we will discuss 3. What programs and activities we feel must be maintained indefinitely and which could or should be eliminated?
It promises to be a lively and productive discussion. We used to say in grade school – be there or be square!