Practical Reasons for Simple Church


simple-churchIn the next couple of posts I want to present three practical reasons to embrace the Simple Church paradigm  as a viable church model for church planting and leadership development.  

PRACTICAL REASON ONE: SIZE

The first reason for planting Simple Churches is their small size.  Big is not always better.  Big, however, is what we have been trained to desire and want.   In this paradigm, bigger is realized as congregations multiply rather than add.  Simple Church builds toward a bigger citywide church by dividing and multiplying as individual congregations grow numerically.  On occasion, there are large gatherings when multiple congregations gather together, but the basic congregation is still small.  When more than 20 or 30 people attend consistently, it is time to start another congregation. 

Small size is a dynamic crucial in sustaining the organic dimension of life within the Simple Church structure.  Relational dynamics dictate that when a group of people gathered together is larger than 20 individuals, intimacy is lost and the level of participation decreases.  When the group is larger than 20, a barrier is crossed and “the group stops being organic and starts to become formal, and even to feel the need to follow a set agenda.”

Another advantage to small size is that it provides the community an ability to manage itself.   One question everyone asks when first considering Simple Church is, “How do you control things?  How to do you protect from heresy?”  When dealing with these issues, small size facilitates resolution rather than hindering it.  The family structure of Simple Church removes the choice of whether or not problematic issues receive attention.  Issues that normally would go unnoticed in larger institutional settings are usually more pronounced and out in the open.  As such, they must be dealt with immediately, or the congregation’s survival will be jeopardized.  Like in any family, when a member is out of order and needs discipline, the other family members administer what is appropriate for the sake of family stability. 

The small size dynamic allows for the emergence of community accountability and intimacy at deeper levels than would occur in larger groups.  This produces a family-like atmosphere where members connect with one another in profound ways.  Nominal members find this type of atmosphere disconcerting and in time either experience renewal or leave the group altogether.  Like family, everyone contributes to the betterment of the whole group.  When one member slacks off or straggles behind, other siblings and parents are aware and intervene.

Having participated in Simple Church for several years, I find the dynamic of small size to be a great asset, if not it’s greatest.  Small makes possible the two remaining reasons of being relationally based and maintaining simplicity.


           

            [1] Simson, Houses that Changed the World, p.17.  There is, in each culture, a very important line between organic and the organized, the informal and the formal, the spontaneous and the liturgical, which Simson terms the “20-barrier,” because in many cultures 20 is a maximum number where people still feel ‘family’, organic, and informal without the need to get formal or organized.  I have found this to be true on a number of occasions when Epic Wineskins attendance has been between 8-12 individuals.  When this occurs, we experience 100% participation from those gathered.  When our congregation is over 20 the participation level drops dramatically.  This dynamic has proven to be the case 100% of the time.

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