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Simple may be difficult but productive, Rainer says


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Simple is not always a synonym for easy.

Simple can be difficult, but if simple principles are mastered, simplicity can be quite effective. And simplicity is the factor connecting some of today’s most successful ventures including Papa John’s Pizza, Apple’s iPod, Southwest Airlines and even healthy churches.

In the book “Simple Church,” Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, and coauthor Eric Geiger used extensive research and more than 400 case studies to support the idea that the healthiest churches embrace a simple biblical process of making disciples.

“The research shows that the churches that have greater simplicity are the churches that have the greatest effectiveness,” Rainer said during an interview for Inside LifeWay, a news podcast produced by LifeWay’s communications department. “We define simplicity in the book as a congregation designed around a strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth.

“… Most churches today don’t have a plan to take people from being a new Christian to being a mature Christian,” Rainer stated. “The book looks at how many churches out there are making strong disciples.”

Rainer said during the program that many churches are incredibly complex and busy and have no clear plan for where they were going. Research revealed those churches have many programs and activities but are unable to define an intentional direction leading toward making disciples. Rainer said the goal isn’t to wipe out all that a church may be doing but to encourage a closer look at what’s being done to see if it is moving the church closer to making disciples.

“It takes a few key factors to become a simple church,” he said. “It takes a leader who can lead the church through change and a congregation willing to accept change. Sometimes change can be big. That’s why I wish we’d emphasized prayer more in the book. This isn’t for every church, so a church should seek direction from God through prayer.”

Rainer said the book relays more evidence of the unhealthy state of so many American churches. He has found through research in recent years that it takes 86 church members per year to reach one person for Christ. Healthy churches have a number closer to 23 to one.

“I don’t see this as a book to end all the problems,” Rainer said. “But I do see it as a step to get people moving in the direction of examining their churches. I hope in the long run there will be more healthy churches as a result of the book.”
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The full content of Thom Rainer’s “Simple Church” discussion can be found at www.lifeway.com/insidelifeway.