I just finished another great offering from Leadership Network’s Innovation Series, Dave Browning’s Deliberate Simplicity, How the Church Does More with Less. I remember sitting at a gathering of pastors a few years back. We had just sat through a presentation on the latest “thing we should be doing.” We had broken into small groups to talk about how we would be implementing this thing at our churches. I asked the very unpopular question, “If we are going to start doing this, what are we going to stop doing?” It was odd because no one seemed to even understand what I was talking about. At least in our denomination, we tend to just keep adding stuff not realizing that we are doing more and more stuff with less and less quality.
Browing gets right at the issue to set the framework that is the basis for ministry at Christ the King Community Church International. He writes early in the book, “Many how-to books for church leaders suggest things for the leaders to do (in addition to what they are already doing) to improve the effectiveness of their church.” (p. 36) It is as though we don’t understand the law of diminishing returns. In order to do more, we are just going to have to stop. Fortunately, and this may sound kind of harsh, most churches have plenty of things that they can stop doing that do not have a whole lot to do with their mission.
The author writes, “Activity for God can be the greatest enemy of devotion to him. That is one of the reasons we try to prune the activity branches at CTK [Christ The King], so God has our time and attention.” (p. 102) As a person who is still fairly new to church (I have only been a Christian about 11 years) it occasionally looks like a bunch of movements and ideas just piled on top of each other. It was about programs, it was about connecting people, it was about small groups, it was about leadership. Without judging any of these ideas, a lot of churches just look like a chaotic, very busy mish-mash of all this stuff.
Browing and his church have said no to all the “stuff.” “At CTK we have chosen to forego meetings, bazaars, programs, fairs, potlucks, conferences, and other activities typically associated with church so we can have more energy available to put into our priorities: worship, small groups, and outreach.” (p. 43)
I think this book lays out the problem exceptionally well. As far as the solution they provide, it clearly works for them and I think it is worth a look for churches that are looking to shed themselves of busyness to make room for more ministry. At University we are addressing the issue but in a little bit different way. Our simplicity might look a little bit complex to some. But we hope it looks clear to those who join us. Our model is to shed the attention we put into a plethora of programming choices and put that energy into the Pathway to Discipleship. When people come to University and they ask, how do I get connected? the only answer is “The Pathway to Discipleship.” Instead of offering new members a million choices and praying that they meet Jesus and make some friends, we offer an intentional path to meeting Jesus, learning the message of Jesus and claiming their mission from Jesus. The Pathway to Discipleship cuts through the thousands of options and sets forth a clear pathway to beginning a life of discipleship. It is not the same idea as “get them in and get them busy.” It is about equipping people to begin a journey toward a life with God.
So our approach to deliberate simplicity is a little different but I totally amen the message and implementation of this book. Especially if you are involved in starting a new faith community or deciding where your church will go next, give it a read.