Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Process Centered Ministry...aka...Simple Church

Wowzas. Blogger has a new interface, and I'm still getting used to it.

Ok. Now that that's out of the way, here is a brief review on the book Simple Church. I know I said I would only do a review if it were super awesome.  Well, in some ways it is, and in other ways it isn't...but I thought I would do one anyway, for the way it got me thinking.

It's definitely not a book for everyone. Average Joe on the street probably has no interest in reading this book.  That is fine.  The intended audience is those in church leadership (though I would maybe recommend it for anyone who was in some sort of leadership role in any ministry, not just a church).

The book itself is not so much a way to start/make a "simple church" as it is a way to get yourself organized into having a really good discipleship...process.  The definition they work with is:
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).
(Page 68-69).
Basically the book then goes at great length to unpack that definition, with the four parenthetical words: clarity, movement, alignment and focus being the main idea throughout.

Let's start out with some negatives (so that you end this review with some hope):
I read through some of the negative reviews on amazon of this book (as I always do), and wasn't too swayed by them.  Based on what they said, the reviewers either did not read the book (one reviewer started out by saying, "I haven't read the book but..." um, yeah, you just discredited yourself as a reviewer....but I digress), or they didn't fully get on board with the process their church went with (which the book stresses that everyone (in leadership at the very least) has to be on board).

The main negative that I found was that I felt they were really repetitive and long-winded at times.  I mean, it took until page 68 to get the above definition, and then they go on and on and on and on about what they mean, and why they mean it, and how they mean it, etc.  The book, not counting appendices and notes is 265 pages long, and all about the above definition, basically.  It is a book that is talking about the results of their research, though, so I suppose you could expect it to be a bit dry and repetitive at times.  At some times, I felt like the authors were standing next to me while I was reading aloud what I was already reading, and the other hitting me over the head with his copy of the book.  (ironically, this "brief" review is getting a bit long-winded itself. It is what it is).
All that said, my mind was going a mile a minute while I read this, and I underlined a lot, and interacted in the margins.  It just made so much sense to me. It was stuff I think I might have already had an idea about, but never articulated.  Basically, a church (or ministry, or organization, or business, etc) needs to have a clear, easy to remember/understand mission statement. The staff at this place needs to all be on board with it (if they aren't, then don't hire them), so that it can be implemented as the over-arching theme/culture of the place.  Programs that don't fit into the grand scheme of things are cut.

The "movement" part of this is more difficult for me to fit neatly into the above sentence (but it is still important). I need to use an example, maybe, to illustrate.  Basically the mission statement is also indicative of the process (or as the book said, the purpose is the process....or something like that). So, if your mission statement is: "Love God, Love Others, Serve the World" (yes, I'm borrowing this from the book), the elements of your programming should follow that order.  People shouldn't be in a service group before they're even attending a worship service.  The order of the mission statement suggests that people start by attending a worship service, then move to something like a small group, and then serve together with people in the small group.  Make sense? If not, just read the book. They dedicate pages and pages to explaining it.

Anyway, I couldn't stop thinking about how I would apply this book to a certain ministry.  One of my top five strengths is futuristic, so you can see how this would be right up my alley.  The thing that surprised me, was that no matter how hard I tried, I could only imagine applying it to this ministry, a ministry of my past. So who knows what the Lord is trying to tell me there. We shall see!

Anyway, this is one of those books that I will certainly keep as a reference. It did inspire me to want to go out and change the world (but, I am easily inspired some days) and implement some of the ideas in the book. I think for some ministries, this will be a difficult task, especially for those set in their ways. Change is hard. In all aspects of life (if it were easy, people would stop doing things that they know are bad for them).

Ok. Thanks for reading this "brief" review. I'm still thinking about this book. I'm not sure of what way I will use it. I hope I get to.

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