What is a simple church?

24 April 2013

Last Sunday, we finished our mini-series on the Biblical basis for our DNA by asking, what is a ‘simple’ church?

A ‘simple’ church philosophy is built upon the fact that the church is alive. We looked at Acts 2.42-47, which follows on from the Pentecost event: God’s promised Spirit has been poured out by the risen Lord Jesus, which means that the church is a community which now¬†shares in the life of God. Things which are alive – for instance, a young plant or a young child – have this profound property of growing, provided they a) have the right things to help and b) don’t have things which will stifle or destroy that life. Young plants need sunlight, water, nutrients – and protection from too much of pretty much everything else. Interestingly, as all farmers know, we can’t make living things grow, we can just help it happen as active onlookers (cf. Acts 2.47).

Thus, being ‘simple’ recognises that we need to be careful to do the ‘major on the majors’ (Acts 2.42) and be careful not to drift or get distracted by other things which will stifle or destroy. With this in mind, being a simple church is in fact a disciple-making strategy. The mission of the church is to make disciples, but the mission of the church is not to make people do what disciples do. A crucial difference. Disciples are concerned for the poor. But being concerned for the poor doesn’t make you a disciple of Jesus. Disciples are concerned to study and teach the Bible. But being a ‘Bible teaching church’ doesn’t necessarily equate to being a disciple-making church. Disciple-making churches grow, but a growing church doesn’t mean it’s making disciples.

Since discipleship is about being a radical apprentice to Jesus in all of life, it’s necessarily impossible to reduce it into any kind of one-size-fits-all (or even six-or-seven-sizes-fit-all); ¬†there is simply too much diversity and difference between people’s ages and stages, histories and hang-ups, knowledge and networks. But what is clear from the Scriptures – gloriously so – is that discipleship happens by the Word of God and in community. Community is the context for discipleship to happen.

Becoming a Christian is literally becoming part of God’s family. For family life to flourish it needs space, in the same way that a young plant won’t grow if it is stifled. Thus a ‘simple’ church takes participating and celebrating the Christian community very seriously. Hence our motto, ‘sharing life together on mission’.

 

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.