Simple Church by Rainer & Geiger as being on my top 31 most influential books will be questioned more than any other book. I say that because of some of the negative reports I received when I had many men at my church read it. It was said to me that this book was just too pragmatic and did not have a high enough place for preaching and teaching.
Let me explain. I love preaching. I love teaching the Bible. But they are a means to an end, not the end. And many times, people who love preaching and teaching have a difficult time seeing past that. This is a book that deals with church structure and the motivations behind what you do as a church.
The basis of this concept of simple church is not that someone does less at their church, but that they are very intentional in their church. They write, "To have a simple church, you must design a simple discipleship process. This process must be clear. It must move people toward maturity. It must be integrated fully into your church, and you must get rid of the clutter around it" (26). I will never forget reading this book and getting to the part where they asked the question: "How do you structure your church to make disciples? How do you set up your ministry programs to move people toward spiritual transformation?" (36). I began asking myself how I would respond to this statement: "We have a clearly defined process for moving a person from salvation to spiritual maturity to significant ministry" (112).
In ministry, this is what it is all about. How are we going to see people become mature in their walk with Jesus. Like Paul, my desire in church ministry is to see people become complete in Christ (Col 1:28-29). I think what I loved about this book the most was that it brought that question to the forefront of the conversation. Do we think it just happens? Or do we need to ask the question, "Why do we do Sunday school? What purpose does that children's event have? How is that conference helping us move people to spiritual maturity? Do these events help our overall process?"
They talk about it in the book, and it is a good point. We often think of the busy church as the successful or growing church. But maybe the busyness is simply a mask that there is no intent on how to bring about people to spiritual maturity. We hope that if we just provide more and more things for them to be part of that it will just happen.
I was convicted about how I did ministry and my approach to it. I asked myself many questions about how we were doing things and what our plan was to produce spiritually mature disciples. But then they asked the question: do the people understand the process? What they meant was can the leadership identify how someone comes from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. And can the people of the church identify how that happens at your church? That stung.
Anyways, it is a great book. It has made me think about events and activities differently. I am sure it will be a book that I come back to time and time again in ministry to remind myself of the clarity that needs to take place in the ministry. If you are a church leader, read this book!