Simple Church is book based on the research on four hundred churches across the United States, which involves churches in all major denominations. Their findings conclude that simple churches are growing and healthy while complex churches are congested and struggling. 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).” (67-68).
The authors suggests that simple churches are thriving because they are implementing a strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth by using the following four concepts: clarity, movement, alignment, and focus (68). These four concepts form the synthesis of a typical simple church. Everything flows in and through these four concepts. One cannot help but see the logic in their thesis. Clarity leads to flow of movement, movement opens the way for alignment, and alignment is directly connected to focus.
Clarity begins with communicating the process so that people can clearly understand. For a church’s process to be effective, it must be clearly defined. The result is that a church’s leaders and people will have a clear understanding of its structure in order to move people toward spiritual growth. How can people act unless they clearly understand how they can get involved? Understanding precedes involvement and clarity precedes understanding. Simple churches have a clear process that everyone can understand. This is the opposite of a complex church, where it is often unclear how to become involved. Clarity should permeate every aspect of a church. The mission, visions, printed materials, sings, etc. should be crystal clear.
The second concept is movement. Movement is the sequential steps in the process that causes people to move to greater areas of commitment. Movement is all about removing the congestion. For movement to happen, Reiner & Geiger suggests that it is important to have a clear entry point into the process. Without a clear entry point, there is no beginning to the process (146). From that point, it is important to move people through the ministry process. Without movement, programs can and will become an end in themselves.
Movement means that church leaders should always be thinking of what is next. Simple churches are always seeking to take people to next steps. For instance, whenever a person becomes a new believer the church should have a new believers class designed to move them to the next step of the discipleship process. There is a direct connection between effective assimilation and a new members’ class (158).
Alignment is the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process (74). This ensures that the entire church is moving in the same direction. Too often churches can be divided over mission and vision because there is no real alignment. When there is no alignment in a church, calendars get over crowded, people can become divided, tired, and worn out. According to their research, it is vital that a church recruits and hires its staff based in part on their alignment and commitment to the ministry process (170). When everyone is on the same page, the result is that everyone’s energy is moving in the same direction. Likewise, it is equally important to implement the same process everywhere in the church.
The fourth and final concept is focus. Focus is the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process (76). Focus usually means that you have to learn to say “no.” Without a clear focus, a church can become cluttered and congested. Churches can become like spiritual pack rats that hold onto every program and ministry. Reiner & Geiger use the analogy of churches being like fast food restaurants with ever expanding ministries, programs, activities. The result is not that churches are better or healthier; rather the conclusion is that fast food spirituality is not healthy at all (200).
Focus means that churches should stay away from trying to implement every new ministry paradigm that comes down the road. There is a proliferation of contemporary ministry paradigms. If we are not careful, a lack of focus will cause scattering. Programs and activities outside of a focused ministry process will ultimately lead people in different directions. A critical evaluation of churches might find that a lack of focus is the source of division in most churches in North America.
Reiner & Geiger not only show the problem of complexity in the church but also articulate the simple four-part process that is a part of the simple church DNA. Clarity, movement, alignment, and focus are four concepts that form the matrix of the simple church revolution. This simple straightforward process will help many churches and church leaders. Never before has there been such a need to rediscover simplicity. If we are not careful, the multitude of distractions and programs will keep the church from doing what it is called to do.