This is one of those book you have to read with a marker in one hand and a notepad in the other. It is obviously written for an American context and, at first, I worried about how relevant it would be for a UK audience (and a scheme one). But, I didn’t need to worry too much. As long as you are prepared to do the hard work of boiling down their overarching principles, then there is a lot of helpful stuff in this book.
Their definition of simple church boils down to this. “A congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of a spiritual growth.” (p60) According to the author(s) there are four elements in a simple church: clarity, movement, alignment and focus. Most of the book is written to show us how these can be made to work in any local church. Being a piece of research, the book is choc full of stats and graphs and each chapter ends with a set of questions for church leaders. The statistics may not be relevant for our audience but it still makes for fascinating reading. Personally, I found the chapter on “Removing Congestion” to be so helpful in re-evaluating the work of Niddrie. It’s easy to kid myself into thinking that everything is going fine when, in reality, there are holes in our ministry that we must be constantly assessing. Busyness does not (always) equate to helpfulness in the local church in terms of growing disciples. I spent a long time thinking, writing, planning and assessing our current structure(s) at Niddrie in an effort to think about how we can simplify things even more.
At Niddrie our vision statement is: Glorifying God, preaching the gospel and making disciples of Jesus Christ. How is what we are doing in our church fulfilling the vision we have laid out? Where are the blockages? What is working and what isn’t? What do we need to remove in order to regain our focus? What do we need to do in order to make the discipleship process easier for our members? These are all important questions.
What about for church planters? Will they find this helpful? I think that they would. If nothing else, it forces us to thing about our goals and values as local churches. It forces us to think through our whole discipleship strategy from the ground up as we seek to build healthy churches. It forces us to keep things simple for maximum spiritual efficiency.
This book comes highly recommended.