Simple Churches

 

 

 

Introduction

Simple churches are our name for local gatherings of disciples and their friends and families.  They are akin to what you might have heard of as organic churches, house churches, missional communities, Kingdom groups, etc.  Our desire is to facilitate disciple-making movements throughout Los Angeles County.  These disciples gather regularly for prayer, worship, accountability, fellowship, and Discovery Bible Studies.  These simple churches meet wherever is most convenient and reasonable for that local body of believers---be that a home, a park, a garage, a coffee shop, or a street corner.

Rationale

At its heart, simple church is a way of doing church that is as reproducible as possible while maintaining the Biblical, creedal, and missional standards of church.  Neil Cole, the author of Organic Church, says best what we are aiming for in our disciple-making and planting of simple churches:  "We want to raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple and lower the bar of how we do church."  In other words, we want to strip off anything extra from the practice of doing church that would make the process of multiplying disciples and churches more difficult.  Practically speaking, this means we are willing to forgo buildings, seminary-trained pastors, expensive programs/curriculum, or anything that hinders the multiplication process.  So often in the U.S. we do exactly the opposite.  We lower the bar of what it means to be a disciple so we can see "growth" and be able to report more numbers of attendees.  The simple church model is especially an asset in the context of our mission of reaching the unchurched urban underserved.  It appeals to many whom have felt rejected or resistant to traditional church and is economically sustainable by nature. 

Discipleship

We believe in multiplying our simple churches as fast as we possibly can, but secondarily to the quality of the disciples being made.  Disciple-making is the vision to which Jesus called us, and it is the engine of church planting.  To this end, our strategy and approach in discipleship is intentionally kept "lean and mean" and easily transferable to future generations of disciples.  We look to avoid traditional barriers to rapid church multiplication, especially the 3 B's – “buildings, budgets, and big-shots.”1 This is not done at the expense of orthodox theology, rigorous discipleship, or sound ecclesiology - all of which have been based on biblical and historical expressions of church planting.

Methodology

As a means of pioneering new areas with which to start these simple churches, the World Impact missionaries who are on the simple church planting teams engage in a variety of endeavors.  These activities include, but are not limited to, taking local city college classes, prayer walking in neighborhoods, hanging out in local laundromats, parks and coffee shops, running a basketball league, and facilitating adult language learning classes.  Partnering with neighbors in our communities to lead these simple churches across the city is another invaluable aspect to our strategy of reaching the city.  

Our primary strategy is the implementation of Training for Trainers, or T4T, an established and proven set of principles and practice throughout the world, particularly effective amongst the poor and in concentrated urban areas.

What is church?

Our definition of church, in its most irreducible elements, is: An elder-led community of disciples living out DNA and the Sacraments.  This DNA stands for Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships, and Apostolic Mission.  These include the upward relationship with God, the inward relationship with each other, and the outward relationship with the culture around them.  In fact, all three elements embrace all three directions simultaneously.  The Word of God is the place where we meet Christ the Living Word in a conversation with our Father, and is the message we carry to the culture around us. Nurturing relationships with the Trinity compel us to relate within the Body of Christ, and with those we are engaging in our outer oikos.  Apostolic Mission is done according to the call and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, in conjunction with other believers, amongst the world.

Distinctives

Simple church practices are fourfold:

  1. Reproducible at every level—disciples, leaders, churches, and movements
  2. Discipleship-centered vs. programs
  3. Every-member ministry
  4. Identification and utilization of the fivefold gifts—Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers

A helpful table in understanding the general distinctions between simple church and what people refer to as traditional church might be as follows on the following page (taken from church 3.0 by Neil Cole).

Dynamics

Traditional Church

Simple Church

Seating when Gathered

Rows

Circles

Environment

Anonymous

Intimate

Leadership Source

Institutions of Higher Learning

Harvest Fields

Growth

Addition

Multiplication

Results

An audience is attracted

A spiritual army is mobilized

Ministry Practitioners

The ordained

The ordinary

Resources

Imported to the harvest

Discovered in the harvest

Primary Leadership Role

Pastoral Teacher

APEST Team

Learning Lab

Classroom-based education

Trench-based education

Cost

Expensive

Inexpensive

Ministry Setting

The meeting place

The marketplace

Success

Full seating capacity

Full sending capacity

Church Posture

Attractional

Missional

Attraction

Felt need programming

Obvious life transformation

Model of Church Life

Academic

Family

If church follows the aforementioned simple church principles, reproduction remains a very doable expectation of each group. Logistics do not interfere with the communities multiplying quickly and naturally along relationship lines as people understand, apply, and mature in their APEST roles.  The apostolic and prophetic amongst a group will naturally be the ones to go out to start new groups, while the evangelistic, shepherding, and teaching members will equip, serve, challenge, and edify the existing group.  If, however, you worship in a building, have a highly educated person as the pastor, and expect that for every church to be a church it has to have these same things and more, then this is not as reproducible.  

Simple Church Elements

The nature and flow of the simple churches will be radically different from group to group.  Some will be more liturgical, some will be more musical, some will be more justice-minded, and others will be more charismatic.  The “flavor” of each of the churches is up to the people that make them up.  That is not our role or desire as the missionaries to shape or make decisions in those realms, thus making room for simple church to flourish in a multitude of cultures and demographics. Most of the world, in fact, would recognize something like a simple church more than they would the traditional church of the West.  The traditional church definition of the United States is the anomaly.  History is on the side of the small and simple.

Specifically, the seven elements of every gathering, as practiced in the T4T way, follow a three-thirds format, as follows:

Looking Back (the first third)

  • worship
  • prayer
  • accountability

Looking Up (the second third)

  • Discovery Bible Study

Looking Forward (the third third)

  • practice
  • application
  • vision-casting

Discovery Bible Study

As opposed to a teacher didactically speaking at a group, Discovery Bible Studies are a way to engage the entire community of people around the Word of God with the Holy Spirit leading the way.  There is a human facilitator in this, but the expectation is that the God who created us, who desires relationship with us, and who provided His living Word to us, will lead us as our Great Shepherd as we engage in His Word together and with hearts that are open to hear, understand, and obey in response.  We employ the three-step model of Bible Interpretation (Observation, Interpretation, and Application) along with a pool of questions under each step which the facilitator can pick and choose from each week to catalyze discussion.  The key to a good Discovery Bible Study is to ask questions in such a way that people are discovering for themselves the eternal truths of God’s Word, as opposed to being told what those truths are.  Truths are more “sticky” this way—more powerful, more relevant, more memorable.  This corporate, communal way of discovering God’s Word together is also a hindrance to the seeds of heresy that might be planted by someone in charge who desires to lead others astray, or to individualized study which could easily be wrong in its interpretation.

Links

T4T Online - http://t4tonline.org/
T4T USA - http://t4tusa.com/
Simple Church - http://www.simplechurch.com/
House 2 House - http://www.site.house2house.com/about-h2h/welcome
Simple Church at home – http://www.simplechurchathome.com

Simple Church video by Following Jesus Project.

Resources

The resources below are an open set of resources with which you may learn, teach others, and use as you see fit.  The materials are designed to be given away as freely and widely as possible to further facilitate the expansion of God's Kingdom.  If you are interested in dialoguing with us about how disciple-making movements might manifest in your own community, please feel free to contact us at bcullison@worldimpact.org or 323.346.7603.

May the Lord direct you as you respond to His call to make disciples of all nations.

 
 

School of Church Multiplication (SCuM)
Facilitator's Booklet
This is a PDF file

 

The 5 Ps This is a PDF file

School of Church Multiplication (SCuM) Student Booklet This is a PDF file

 

Las cinco P's This is a PDF file

The Making of a Disciple WorkBook This is a PDF file

 

7 Commands of Christ This is a PDF file

DBS Passages This is a PDF file

 

7 mandatos para creyentes This is a PDF file

DBS Passages (Spanish) This is a PDF file

 

Training for Trainers (T4T) Primer This is a PDF file

         
 
     
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

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