Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples

by Thom S. Rainer

Hardcover, 2006





Many of the church leaders we talk to are seeking an escape from the not-so-simple life. This book is not about another church model. Church leaders have been exposed to plenty of models, and have many on their bookshelves. Or worse, many church leaders have blended a bunch of models into one schizophrenic plan. If that is the case, neither the leader nor the people in the church are really sure what that church is all about. This pattern is seen all the time. But no new program will be pushed here. If anything, this book encourages eliminating some things, to streamline. This book will help design a simple process of discipleship for a church. It will help implement a personally chosen model. It will help simplify.


B&H Books (2006), 272 pages


½ (106 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member jepursell
This book addresses church growth not from a shotgun approach, but rather from a rifle approach. The authors premise that having a simple, well-articulated focus is more effective than trying to be everything to everybody. They offer a large amount of research to substantiate their assertion.
LibraryThing member donaldo
Simple Church is Geiger's concept; Rainer has signed off on the idea. Simple Church is a radical concept -- too radical, in fact. The premise is that a church has a responsibility to involve people and move them through a process of discipleship to service, mais nada (nothing more). Such spiritual
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entities as Apple Computers and The Gap are to serve as our example for how "church" is supposed to be done. What is lost in the simple church "process' is the fact that the Body of Christ exists to please the Head. Some things that the church does are not efficient, but they do bring honor to Him who merits all honor. Read it; but with caution.
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LibraryThing member kevyhurt
After reading this book I had more questions than I did answers. How do church leaders implement the concept of "less is more" in a church setting where the focus many times if bigger and better!

I know of several churches that have "bought" into the idea of the premise from this excellent book. I
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hear good reports but time will be the true indicator of the success of this strategy in the total church program.

I commend the writers for their work in arguing simplicity in the church. Take for example this excerpt from chapter three:

"Hezekiah was a revolutionary for simple. He was extremely focused. He was against cluttered spiritual lives. Evidently God liked this characteristic about him because in 2nd Kings 18:3 indicates that Hezekiah did what “was right in the LORD’s sight.”

He returned God’s people to the Lord. He brought them through an extreme makeover. He got rid of some things. First, he removed the high places and cut down the Asherah poles (2nd Kings 18:4). Basically, he threw out the altars that were set up to make-believe gods. He took out the godless clutter that had been competing for the attention and the affection of the people.

Most churches leaders are willing to do that. This move was surely understood and embraced by even the nominal God worshippers in Hezekiah’s day. They would expect the leader to insist that the people worship God.

Eliminating pagan idols is one thing, but what Hezekiah did next was controversial. Many church leaders would struggle to emulate his next move. Surely, people in his day struggled with this next change.

He broke the bronze snake that Moses made – on purpose.

He did not just drop it and claim it was an accident. He broke it into pieces. The mental picture of a baseball player breaking a bat over his knee comes close. Yes, it was the special and sacred snake. The snake that was crafted and held by Moses. The snake that God had instructed Moses to make. The snake that was the source of salvation for the people from their snakebites (Numbers 21:6-8).

He got ride of it because it was clutter. It was clutter because the people worshiped it. It took attention away from the real Savior. Bronze was worshipped. A fake snake was adored. 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.

Most churches need an extreme makeover and a modern day Hezekiah.

For Hezekiah, eliminating the bronze snake was most likely not a popular decision, especially with the religious crowd steeped deep in tradition. Most extreme makeovers involving God’s people are difficult. Hezekiah did something that was probably perceived being on the edge of sanity. It was a radical move. And that pleased God. In fact, there was no king like him before or after his time (2nd Kings 18:5).

The church needs some modern-day Hezekiahs."[1]


[1] Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger, Simple Church, pp. 78-80.

I think this is an important book for ministerial and strong lay leadership to consider as they try to stream-line what works and what doesn't work in the current church setting.
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LibraryThing member mikerhenry
I really enjoyed this book and agree with the author's argument; that spiritual growth is a process and the simple churches - the ones that focus all of their effort on helping people along that process - are the churches that make a difference in the world.

In the first half of the book, the
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authors make their case. In the second half, they tell you how. I found myself frustrated in the second half because I'm in a complex church and I don't see a lot of hope for that changing any time soon.
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LibraryThing member brazilnut72
(I have the Kindle version of this book)
LibraryThing member davegregg
A good book to read for pastors or church planters in institutional churches. It is a good book for solid organizational wisdom, if you're into that kind of thing. ;) It applies to non-profits and businesses.
LibraryThing member porch_reader
I led a leader's retreat for my church yesterday. Our goal was to discuss our purpose and the process that we are using to achieve that purpose. Our pastor recommended this book, and I found it very helpful in structuring our conversation. The key idea is that most churches are too complex. We need
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to help people move through the stages of encountering God, growing spiritually, and serving the world. This book provides lots of examples of how other churches have successfully achieved these goals and questions for discussion.
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LibraryThing member nicholasjjordan
It's interesting to see reviews of fellow pastor friends who didn't like this book. I suppose it's repetitive, and some of the research needs explained better, but it hammers home again and again crucial thoughts on church organization.

I came to it after reading the incredible Essentialism by
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McKeown, which pairs well with it (and exceeds it) in the emphasis on clear focus and direction in ministry. I'll be returning to this book.

Other reviews are correct when they ask for deeper theological and Scriptural reflection, however.
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LibraryThing member emabbott
I wanted to give this book 3.5 stars. It has some very good principles and I have come away challenges and helped. However there is a lot of filler that I skipped over. I didn't find the examples of churches helpful either. The research and the basic pint of the book is spot on though and I would
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encourage other ministry leaders to read this book and spit out the bones.
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