Thursday Thoughts: Simple Church

A few weeks ago I was given a book to read called the Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger.

We all like simple right? I mean there have been people that have ran presidential campaigns on the fact that they can make tax systems more simple, they can make government more simple. I have meetings at work where we spend hours talking about how to make processes more simple. What usually happens is, we make things more complicated. As humans, we have a very bad tendency to make everything more complicated, yet we want simple. Our churches are no different. We want simple, but we end up, usually more complex.

This book is a quick read. It gives several examples of complicated churches and simple churches, then contrasts what they do differently. Having been a preacher’s kid, I remember hearing my dad talk about some of the exact things discussed in this book. “We’re making this too hard. We need to be more simple.”

It gets hard to be more simple. It takes commitment and stepping out of our comfort zone to not do some of the programs we are used to. Let’s be honest, how many programs do we see in our churches that requires lots of time and effort, but the only ones showing up are the members of the church? Are those type of things bad? No, but what is the purpose of the church? It’s to further the Gospel. Or how many programs require lots of effort, but it doesn’t bring anyone one in?

Church is no different than a business in some ways. You have a budget, you have people to do a task, and you have an allotment of time. Just as in business you have to worry about morale, burnout, different levels of commitment, etc; you have the same worries in a church. In some cases it can be worse, as for many, church starts taking out time in our family/social/alone time, and time is a limited resource.

Businesses have to constantly look at what gives them the most revenue for their man hours. The book doesn’t put it like this, but what gives churches the most for their members’ time? If the church’s goal is to help spread the Gospel, what programs do that? If the church’s goal is to help strengthen the relationship of the member’s with Christ, what programs help with that.

They have a lot of statistics/surveys they took between a simple church and non-simple churches. I was not that impressed with the results they presented, but that probably has a lot to do with I’m an analytical chemist so I view things as it’s black or white and if the numbers don’t blow you away one way or the other, then it is not great data. I think they tried to make some conclusions that might be stretching it a bit, but generally, I think they are right. . . a simple church produces better.

Why do I think that? This is where I have a slightly different reasoning. Morale. . . being a manager, morale is everything. If your employees do not have good morale, it doesn’t matter what process, incentive, etc you have in place; nothing will get done efficiently. Same with church. Just because you’re a christian and go to church programs, doesn’t mean you’re any different than any other human. You get tired, you’re drained. You want to spend time with your family or doing some activities that revitalize you.

If you feel obligated to always be at different programs, where you don’t get the time to recharge your batteries, spend time with your family, and rest; your morale is going to go down. If you have good morale, the efficiency of what you do goes way up. You have more energy, and energy produces results. Energy attracts people, which in church, that’s what you want to do.

To be a simple church, as per the book, you have to look at your programs, how you communicate, and how you move people into service. Everyone needs to have the same mission, focus, and end goal. Too many times we start getting our favorite program/ministry and when it starts to fizzle or serve its purpose, people try to hang on to it. They have investment into that program. They start to feel if the program goes away, they have failed. We have to remember we are here to serve God, not ourselves.

It was a quick read. Very good if you’ve been in church a long time and have got into the “we’ve always done it this way” attitude. We forget why certain ways of doing things were put in place (i.e. Sunday night services) and get into the we’ve always done it this way attitude. Programs/ministries might have had value/purpose 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, etc years ago, but we always need to evaluate if its having value and serving a purpose of reaching people now. I’ve seen churches run a college program when they have 2 people show up. The reason they kept it going was due to having had one the past 20+ years. Then they add new programs to reach different people. Soon you start running out of people to run all these programs and you get burnout.

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Thursday Thoughts: Value of Life

I was driving on my lunch break and it crossed my mind how different the world would be if we valued life more or taught the next generation to value life more.

We talk about how gun violence gets worse and worse. Abortion is a huge headline lately in the news. The past few years bullying has been reported on heavily. There have been many conversations about what is right and wrong, what should be done to correct these issues, and what is in store for our future if we do nothing.

What I want to ask is, how much of this would change if we valued life more? We forget that we are made in the image of God. That should me a lot to us. We have attributes that are the same as the One that made the heavens and the Earth. In the Bible nothing else is stated as being made in the image of God. Humans are different in that aspect. For that very reason we should value life greatly. Life is so precious! As a biochemist, it amazes me how delicate life can be? A little bit of a chemical imbalance here or there and our life is done.

If we taught our children to value everyone’s life more would we have the issues with racism? Would we have the murder rates we have now? Would we have the issues with abortion? Would there be less bullying?

Just thoughts I had while driving. We try to legislate all of these issues, but if we taught the next generations to value life, would that change things more?

Thursday Thoughts: How Do We Respond?

How do you respond when someone that doesn’t believe what you believe makes an angry comment to you? Now I want to ask the harder question. If someone responded to you, how you answered the first question, would your be offended and ready to argue/fight?

I have a very sarcastic sense of humor, sometimes my quick wit doesn’t get filtered like it should. If I’m being honest, if someone answered me like I’ve answered some people, I might not respond well. It’s hard, when someone responds to our beliefs negatively. It’s even harder when they’re mean about it. We’re like anyone else, we want people to like us, we want people to agree with our thinking, and we want people to agree with our beliefs.

How we respond

How we respond to negative comments can be the strongest testimony that we have. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Many times we think we need to one up the person, we need to show them up, we have to give them more venom than they gave us. All this does is escalate the matter. I discussed Proverbs 15:1 more in this post.

I’m not saying we can’t respond, but we need to make sure our responses are appropriate and not said to stir up an argument. Discussions are good, arguments polarize the two sides.

What bothers me, is the hatred that fills the comments of facebook and twitter from people on Christian pages. That is the worst thing we can do. Those comments can be screenshot and distributed or posted on other pages. Where it can be said, “look at how these Christians responded?” It’s also social media comments that can be filtered. There is time to look at what you post and ask yourself if it is appropriate and if we’re giving a soft answer. I get some hateful comments on here, sometimes my first reaction is to give a snarky comment back. If we’re going to be an example of Christ, we can’t let our flesh be our guide in how we respond.

I try to always respond with some humor. I try to understand that they don’t believe what I believe so I’m different from them. We should always keep that in perspective too. Many times they think what we believe is absolutely absurd. If we handle situations like everyone else, all they see is we’re like them but say we are not. Actions speak louder than words. We need to remember that when we respond.

Thursday Thought-Healing Our Hurt

Last night we had our small group at church. We were talking about hurt and why the heart was the hardest thing to protect in a spiritual sense. The heart is what supplies the nutrients to the rest of our body. If there is something wrong with our heart the rest of our body feels it even if it’s small. So even if someone has hurt us severely, we have to go through the process of forgiving. Forgiving is a mental state, they emotions will be there still, but forgiving is us saying we’re going to make a change to heal. Taking this step is the only way to heal that hurt. God forgives us and embraces us every time. He doesn’t say “I forgive you” but holds us at arms length. Are we forgiving like God does? Only by relying on God can we forgive like him.