Thursday, November 29, 2012

simple church

Doing a quick Kindle read of a recommended book, Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. 

Getting some good thoughts from this, and of course, Kindle allows me to underline, and then cut and paste from my clippings text file.  

About halfway through here are some key highlights:

Study findings: "There is a highly significant relationship between a simple church design and the growth and vitality of a local church."

Sadly, most churches miss this truth. They are not simple. They have not designed a simple process for discipleship. They have not structured their church around the process of spiritual transformation. And they are making little impact. 

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.

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).


Clarity is the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by the people. 

Before the process can be clear to the people in the church, it must first be clear to the leaders.

Church leaders must define more than the purpose (the what); they must also define the process (the how).

People cannot embrace the ambiguous.

Determine what kind of disciple you wish to produce in your church. What do you want the people to be?


Movement is the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment. Movement is about flow. It is about assimilation.

"The irony is that we have actually grown numerically and spiritually by doing fewer programs and special events, choosing instead to focus our attention on moving people with various levels of commitment to deeper levels of commitment."

Learn to view your numbers horizontally and not vertically... Most church leaders would look at the total number of people in a particular program, such as the total number of adults in small groups. That is looking vertically. It is looking at programs to see if they are successful. Viewing your numbers horizontally is different. Someone who views numbers horizontally would... see that a certain percentage of adults moved from a worship service to small groups and then to ministry teams. The horizontal viewer would think of ways to move more people across the chart. Sideways.

For people to take your ministry process seriously, it has to be measured. For people to internalize the simple how in your church, you have to evaluate it. The cliché is true: what gets evaluated, gets done. We asked church leaders if they have a system in place to evaluate if people are progressing through their process.


Alignment is the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process. Alignment to the process means that all ministry departments submit and attach themselves to the same overarching process... Without alignment, the church can be a multitude of subministries. In this case each ministry has its own leaders who are only passionate about their specific ministry. They rarely identify with the entire church but are deeply committed to their own philosophy of ministry.

Our research indicates that simple churches practice alignment. They intentionally fight the drift into misalignment. They insist that each staff member and each ministry embrace and execute their simple ministry process.

...alignment fosters unity. People are not fighting over the same space, resources, and leaders. Each ministry complements the others. The goal of each department is to move people [through the process]. ...this process is so simple that it can be explained in a few minutes on a napkin. Each department understands the process and is committed to it.

Decide how each weekly program is part of the process.


Focus is the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process. Focus most often means saying "no." Focus requires saying "yes" to the best and "no" to everything else.

Programs were made for man, not man for programs. If the goal is to keep certain things going, the church is in trouble. The end result must always be about people. Programs should only be tools.

What was once a good thing became an idol. It got in the way of their worship of God. The tool for worship became the object of worship. In many churches the original tools for life change have created too much clutter. Instead of uniting, they divide focus. The programs have become ends in themselves. 

...if you want the necessary to stand out, you have to get rid of the unnecessary.

The extra programs are what business consultants refer to as nonvalue-adding work. They did not add value to the process. The extra programs actually competed with the process because people were less likely to plug into a small group and a ministry. People only have so much available time, and the leaders decided to free up time slots for people to be able to connect to the essential programs in the process. In order to bring greater focus, even popular programs were altered or eliminated... 

View everything through the lens of your simple process. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

living with the end in mind

Here are some notes and quotes from Don Emerson's message on Sunday...

“A wise person always lives with the end in mind”

“'If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you will be right.' When I was 17, I read this quote and for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself; ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I have ever encountered to help me make the big choices of life.” (--Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005)

We leave lasting footprints after we’re gone by...

--Demonstrating how to handle failure.

--Investing in the lives of others around us.

--By modeling the good life of loving and obeying God.

--By showing how to die with confidence and hope.

We leave lasting footprints after we’re gone by...

1) Demonstrating how to handle failure.

“ … I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.” (Deut. 34:4)

“The realism of the Bible is that God does not excuse sin, but neither is he finished with us when He finds sin in us …the leadership of biblical men was not in every case ended because they sinned. God knew from the beginning who Moses was. God had no illusions that here was a perfect man … God is the sovereign God who is never taken by surprise … God is not romantic concerning men.”  (Francis Schaeffer, No Little People)

2) Investing in the lives of others around us.

“ … Now Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people obeyed him, doing just as the LORD had commanded Moses”  (Deut. 34:9)

3) Living a life of loving and obeying God.

“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster … O that you would choose life, so that you and your  descendants might live! …This is the key to your life.”  (Deut. 30:11, 19, 20)

4) Showing how to die with confidence and hope.

“ … Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever.” (Deut. 34:7)

“I once scorned every fearful thought of death,
When it was but the end of pulse and breath.
But now my eyes have seen that past the pain
There is a world waiting to be claimed.

Earthmaker, Holy, let me now depart,
For living’s  such a temporary art.
But dying is but getting dressed for God,
Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod.”

(Calvin Miller, The Divine Symphony)

“Half the places at the round table were empty and among those missing were many of the best who used to sit there. And of those that were there, many had wounds and scars, and most were changed in some way from what they had been before. And he thought that the high adventure of the Grail had been a costly one.”  (King Arthur and the Quest for the Holy Gail)

“A wise person always lives with the end in mind”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

dignity, humility continued

Blaise Pascal, in his Pensees, on human weakness and dignity...

#347. Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.  All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.

#793. All bodies, the firmament, the stars, the earth and its kingdoms, are not equal to the lowest mind; for mind knows all these and itself; and these bodies nothing. 

This last statement has sometimes been paraphrased, "We are greater than the stars, for we know them and they know nothing."

Previous post: Schaeffer on human dignity and humility.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

human dignity and humility

Francis Schaeffer, in The God Who Is There, shared a helpful diagram which illustrates the dignity and humility of humanity.  

God is our Creator, infinite and self-existent.  We share with all other creatures our creatureliness and finite-ness.  There is a great chasm between us and God in this regards.  We will never be God, who alone is necessary and self-sufficient.  This is our humility.

Yet on the side of personhood, we are very much like God.  We are made in his image (Gen. 1:26, 27).  We can think, reason abstractly, feel with complexity, plan and dream, and choose right or wrong. We can exercise dominion in the world and -- by God's grace -- create a human culture of truth, goodness and beauty.  The chasm then exists between the rest of the creatures and man.  

It is important to remember both aspects of our make-up.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

what is the church's mission?

During drive time I'm listening to What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom and the Great Commission, by Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert. 

Very thankful to for their offer of a free download on this!

Here are some popular highlights, which will give a sense of the direction of this work:

We believe the church is sent into the world to witness to Jesus by proclaiming the gospel and making disciples of all nations.  This is our task. This is our unique and central calling.

God does not send out his church to conquer. He sends us out in the name of the One who has already conquered. We go only because he reigns.

We are concerned that in all our passion for renewing the city or tackling social problems, we run the risk of marginalizing the one thing that makes Christian mission Christian: namely, making disciples of Jesus Christ.

If there are missiological implications from Genesis, their emphasis is not “go and bless everyone” but rather “go and call the nations to put their faith in Christ.”

We’d do better to speak of living as citizens of the kingdom, rather than telling our people that they build the kingdom. 

We want the church to remember that there is something worse than death and something better than human flourishing. If we hope only for renewed cities and restored bodies in this life, we are of all people most to be pitied.

If you are looking for a picture of the early church giving itself to creation care, plans for societal renewal, and strategies to serve the community in Jesus’s name, you won’t find them in Acts. But if you are looking for preaching, teaching, and the centrality of the Word, this is your book. The story of Acts is the story of the earliest Christians’ efforts to carry out the commission given them in Acts 1:8. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

the morning after

On the morning after our national elections, this is what I’m thinking: the work of the church is far more important than the work of the government.

Why is this?

Jesus said his church would prevail against the gates of hell (Matt 16:18).  His kingdom is an eternal kingdom that outlasts and supersedes all governments (Dan 7:14).  The church is God’s own possession, purchased by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). 

It is the church that can care for souls as well as bodies (Acts 2:42-47).  Wherever the church has gone, orphanages and hospitals have been established, and the outcast, the lonely and the dispossessed find a home.  

It is the church that has gifted teachers who proclaim eternal truth (1 Cor 12:28ff).   The church is the pillar and buttress of truth (1 Tim 3:15).   God has given many special gifts to the church whereby people can be restored and built up. 

It is through the church that God’s manifold wisdom is made known to heaven and earth (Eph 3:10).  Angels long to look into the work of the preaching of the gospel, which is the special work of the church (1 Peter 1:12). 

The church is united to the life-giving headship of Christ (Eph 1:22; Col 1:18).  God never calls the church “a drop in the bucket", as he does the nations (Isa 40:15).  God’s glory is upon the church (Eph 3:21; 5:27).  He nourishes and cherishes her (Eph 5:29).  

Churches are the golden lampstands of light in the dark world.  (Rev 1:20) 

It is churches that bring families together and bring hope and a new way to love through the Holy Spirit.  It is the church that knows and can practice forgiveness through the power of Christ.  It is the church that teaches truth not pragmatism. 

Government programs usually do not capture the hearts of people, which the love of God’s people can do.  It was the church in Czechoslovakia and in Poland that changed their governments peacefully through their own suffering.  I think of the words and works of people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr., whose impact has long surpassed the works of most elected officials.  

It is the values of God’s kingdom which political candidates often use to promote their election campaigns -- values and hopes which they are largely unable to bring to pass.  This is true, I believe, of any political party, whether red or blue or otherwise.  I felt this was an important election, and I thought through the issues, and I voted.  And I will vote again.  But I'm neither gushing nor despairing today, for many very important things have not changed at all.

So, don’t be overly dismayed if your candidate lost.  Don’t be overly exuberant if your candidate won.  Political leaders are capable of much damage and much good.  But both the evil they do and the good they do is limited within the bounds of God’s sovereign plan for the nations.  

And his plan for the nations centers primarily on the advancement of the gospel.  Remember, of all that Caesar Augustus accomplished in the ancient world, he merited only one mention in Scripture: that he called for a census which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to give birth to the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 2:1).  The everlasting government of God rests upon his shoulders (Isa 9:6).

Now that the elections are over we should get back to the work of the church.  We should pray for our president and all our newly elected leaders, and respect their offices, but mainly we should be about being the church and faithfully proclaiming the eternal gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins, risen bodily, ascended in glory, and returning soon to judge the nations.   

The work of the church is eternally more important than the work of governments.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

happiness (joy) the goal

Edwards writes in his first notebook of Miscellanies that it is not simply the glory of God that is the end, or goal, of creation.  Rather, it is the enjoyment of the glory of God.  God eternally enjoys his glory within the Trinity.  Creation becomes an arena of God's revealed glory, specifically revealed to sentient creatures.  And it is not the knowledge of this glory only, nor the communication of it, that is the goal, but the enjoyment of it...  


as appears by this, because the creation had as good not be, as not rejoice in its being. For certainly it was the goodness of the Creator that moved him to create; and how can we conceive of another end proposed by goodness, than that he might delight in seeing the creatures he made rejoice in that being that he has given them?

It appears also by this, because the end of the creation is that the creation might glorify him. Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at that glory he has displayed? An understanding of the perfections of God, merely, cannot be the end of the creation; for he had as good not understand it, as see it and not be at all moved with joy at the sight. Neither can the highest end of the creation be the declaring God's glory to others; for the declaring God's glory is good for nothing otherwise than to raise joy in ourselves and others at what is declared.

Wherefore, seeing happiness is the highest end of the creation of the universe, and intelligent beings are that consciousness of the creation that is to be the immediate subject of this happiness, how happy may we conclude will be those intelligent beings that are to be made eternally happy!

(--Jonathan Edwards, 1722, The "Miscellanies": WJE Online Vol. 13 , Ed. Harry S. Stout)