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Rainer, Geiger offer simple concept of discipleship in book

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Look at Apple’s iPod or Google’s website. Consider Southwest Airlines or Papa John’s Pizza. What do these successful companies have in common?

A commitment to simplicity.

Simplicity is in. Complexity is out. So contend Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger in their new book, “Simple Church,” released by B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources.

A new revolution toward simplicity has impacted how individuals respond to information -– and it also affects how churches minister to their congregations, according to Rainer, president of LifeWay, and Geiger, executive pastor of Christ Fellowship in Miami.

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Based on research encompassing 400 case studies, Rainer and Geiger provide evidence that church leaders who have designed a simple biblical process to make disciples are effectively advancing the Gospel.

“Simple churches are making a big impact,” they write.

“Ironically people are hungry for simple because the world has become much more complex. The amount of information accessible to us is continually increasing. The ability to interact with the entire world is now possible. Technology is consistently advancing at a rapid pace.”

The result is a complicated world in which people live busy lives. And, in the midst of complexity, people want to find simplicity, Rainer and Geiger say. “They long for it, seek it, pay for it, even dream of it. Simple is in. Simple works. People respond to simple,” they write.

Rainer and Geiger offer church leaders the ethos behind designing a simple process of discipleship.

“The concept of simple church is not the latest fad or methodology,” Rainer said. “It is a philosophy of ministry that causes churches to focus on those ministries that really matter.”

As defined in the book, a simple church is a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth. Rainer and Geiger outline four steps to achieve simplicity: clarity, movement, alignment and focus.

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Start with clarity, they advise.

“Clarity is the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by the people,” they write. “If you want your process to be clear, you must define it, illustrate it, discuss it, and measure it. You must also constantly monitor the understanding of your people in regard to your process.”

Movement is the next step in the simplicity process.

“Movement is the sequential steps in the process that causes people to move to greater areas of commitment,” Rainer and Geiger write, detailing several prescriptions and examples for how to create movement in a church.

Alignment follows, maximizing the energy of all members. “Alignment is the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process,” the authors write

Focus is the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside the simple ministry process. Rainer and Geiger outline the importance of eliminating nonessential programs within the church.

“I hope readers will grasp the idea that those churches that do a few things well are more often than not the most effective churches,” Rainer said in a recent interview. “Church life has become too complex and too cluttered in most congregations. The joy of simplicity is the ability to focus on a few aspects of ministry and do them well.”

Rainer and Geiger present examples of simple churches and outline the process the leaders took to unclutter their ministry.

“Some of the simple churches in our study were in very difficult situations before they embraced the simple church concept,” Rainer said. “Eric and I believe that it is possible for most churches of different sizes and locations to become more effective for the glory of God.”

Geiger said he hopes church leaders will gain enough understanding of how to create a simple church process after reading the book.

“The more simple a process, the more focus you have,” Geiger said. “You are able to accomplish more because your attention is focused. Your goals are clear and you are able to concentrate on excellence and discipleship.

“People understand the direction of the church when the calendar is not cluttered,” Geiger said, adding that streamlining and eliminating things that don’t fit into the church process creates an environment where leaders can deliver ministries with more excellence.

“Ultimately we’re in ministry for the people in our church,” Geiger said. “A church that has a simple process makes it easy for members to know what the next level of commitment is and grow in their faith.”

Geiger further warned pastors not to become simple too fast. “Leaders must go through the process of simplification. Don’t ax a lot of programs upfront.” Determine what the church’s purpose is and organize accordingly, he advised.

“This book is not about how we as pastors make our lives easier,” Geiger said. “It’s about designing a process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth so their lives are transformed.”
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“Simple Church” can be purchased at LifeWay Christian Stores and online at www.LifewayStores.com.