Church leaders, both elected lay leaders and clergy, tend to make church difficult. Somehow the notion has been advanced that effective congregational life is about doing more and more and more. What I am thinking about here is the notion that more Bible studies should be offered, more fellowship events planned and more service be provided to the community. The natural result is exhaustion – both for church members and the staff. What then follows are imaginative excuses from church members for why they are simply unable to attend this meeting or that Bible study. Underneath all those excuses is simple exhaustion. What is desperately needed today is simple church.
Simple church is the notion that less is more. Rather than continually increasing the programs of the church, perhaps the church would be more effective by doing fewer things better. Pay attention to that last sentence. It begs for clarity, doesn’t it? Specifically, by what standard does the church measure “effectiveness” and what “few things” if done well brings the church to home plate? For those who don’t follow the game of baseball, “home plate” is a good thing. It means scores on the board ultimately resulting in a win.
Fortunately the church doesn’t have to beg, plea and coerce a small group of people to come together and complete a study for what makes a church “effective.” Remember, church members and staff are already exhausted. No, a study isn’t needed. God is startling clear on that question. In Colossians 1:28 the church reads, “present each one mature in Christ.” Ephesians 4:13 puts it this way, “God’s goal is for us to become mature adults – to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.” I will not answer for you but this seems to me to offer considerable clarity for what “effective” means for the church. Is the church right now presenting each member “mature in Christ?”
Naturally, that moves us to the next question. The Bible isn’t as direct in providing an answer to the question, “what few things must we do well?” Actually, that isn’t true. The Bible doesn’t spell out the answer as it does for the measure of effectiveness. Rather, the answer is demonstrated in the life and ministry of Jesus. What is required is a careful eye and a heart open to God or, as a parent may say to a child, “Pay attention.” If careful attention is given to the Jesus of the four Gospels four very distinct activities are seen. First is that they “worshipped together.” Second is that they grew in faith through participation in a small group (twelve men and Jesus). Third, they sought ways to serve one another and others with whom they came in contact with. Fourth, they cared for one another. Four identifying words stand out: Worship, Grow, Serve and Care.
Seems that a better way to “do” church is to simply urge members to worship regularly, participate in a small group where their faith grows, find one service opportunity and provide a ministry of care to those in their immediate network like members of their small group. Everything else is superfluous and can be discarded. Frankly, nothing is gained by making church life so busy that church activities are all-consuming. We must help church members preserve time for play, for meals together and for rest. Rest seems to be most necessary for many today.