"Simple Church" is written from a statistical perspective and examines how today's church is handling the complexity of everyday life. Truth is, we're all busy. Sometimes we're busy about nothing, but for the most part, we're pretty busy. Our society is a fast paced society. There is always another practice to get to, a ball game to attend, a school function to support, family time to squeeze in, and church as well. Rainer looks at the church and basically asks the question, "Will the church resist culture and modern times or will the church transform culture and modern times?" The answer to that question is seen in the way we conduct our lives and especially our churches.
For example, take 20 years ago, the average American family required one parent to work a full time job while the other parent could stay home or work a part time job as needed. That obviously has changed for the most part. In more than 75% of all families, it takes both spouses working full time to make end's meat. This means families are more hectic than ever. Kids have less face time with their parents (and I think we can all see the ramifications of that). Some parents feel as if they have no life due to their job and home responsibilities leaving some to completely abandon the family. With time being constrained by our economy, inflation, and needs, how has the church responded? Mostly, not at all. The American church as a whole hasn't changed their service offerings, expectations, and demands. While Sunday night used to be a luxury for many several years ago, the night has turned into one of the only opportunities to rest, spend quality time with a spouse or children, or simply to catch up on all that didn't get done in the day prior.
Wednesday nights have followed suit as well. Over the past few decades, Wednesday night attendance for adults across the country has went down. This isn't because people don't necessarily want to go to a midweek service (though that does apply to some). It is because parents aren't getting off work until 6 or later and between getting kids ready and fed and trying to catch a breath in the transition, the service sometimes can't be made. Nevertheless, the American church is guilty in many places of making Wednesday night the only time anything is done with teens or the Word is ever studied (not preached).
Are we still waiting on the "good" services on Sunday nights and expecting the Bible Studies to always be on Wednesday nights? If so, how large is the cross section of population that we're eliminating from discipleship and growth?
Ah yes, I know . . . God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But truth be told, some folks have made idols out of the "old way" of doing things and have found themselves worshiping at the altar of tradition, legalism, and human sacrifice instead of the cross of Christ. Memories should never be forgotten. We should never forget who we were and who we are through the power of the blood of Christ, but if we're looking back for the purpose of going forward, Jesus has already told us the result. Jesus said that any man who would look back and take his hand from the plow isn't worthy of the Kingdom. In short, you can't go forward if you're looking backwards.
There are a whole section of churches who have the same message every week. I'm not speaking of the blind prosperity message. I am speaking of the elitist approach. Instead of making disciples (the ONLY job of the church), churches find themselves belittling their brothers and sisters in Christ who don't preach like they do, believe like they do, act as they do, or share the same convictions as they do. For every person who wants to shake their finger and claim the church isn't real because we're not seeing miracles and so forth, how many miracles have you Mr. and Mrs. Finger Pointer achieved? Jesus makes it clear, that if miracles is what we think the church is about, we're deceived. He tells us in Matthew 25 that on judgment day people will talk about the demons they cast out and the healings they performed and the lessons and sermons they taught and preached, but Jesus is going to say, "Depart from me, I never knew you." Who does He know? Read on further and you'll find that Jesus knew those who took care of the sick, the broken, the orphans, the widows, the hurting, the poor, and the lost. The litmus test for a "good" service and a "powerful" church is not the shouting, gifts of the Spirit, or the like. The proof is in the disciples. The proof is in the push for souls. That's our job. And when we do our jobs, Christ has promised to baptize us in the Holy Ghost to be more effective at that job. We have been guilty of exalting the helps of the mission above the mission itself. All of this has caused confusion and congestion and it's time to simplify.
Why is it that in the average church 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people? Some of it is a spiritual problem. More of it is probably do the unavailability of well intentioned people. Another reason may be due to the complexity of activities. What about discipleship? If this is the church's main goal, what simple to understand program does the church have in place to meet the need? Instead of stretching one another too thin, shouldn't we be building one another up. Should the majority of a church's ministry be done on the church property or off? These are questions among many others that I'm wrestling with as we speak.
In a world of chaos, fine print, judgment, and condemnation, the message of Christ has always been simple. Believe and confess and you will be saved. Isn't it time we make the simple thing the main thing?