Stetzer is a Baptist pastor, author of several books, and consultant on church growth and evangelism.
Geiger, of course, wrote the Simple Church, a highly influential book that demonstrated statistically that churches with a simpler format — fewer events per week, more highly focused — grow more than churches with a more traditional “full service” format.
Consider, for example, Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church in Atlanta, which expects members to attend a weekly worship service and a weekly small group. They do not ask their members to attend Sunday morning classes or Sunday or Wednesday night services, other than the small group ministry. Moreover, some churches go so far as to include parenting or marriage seminars in the small group curriculum rather than having extra events. They figure they need to reduce the routine demands on their members in order to allow time for what’s most important.
Now, the shortcoming of Simple Church, in my view, is that it doesn’t answer the obvious question: simplify in order to do what instead? I mean, some churches simplify to give their members more free time — family time. Members worship and meet in homes to eat hamburgers and discuss the morning’s sermon, and that’s it. Such a church may accomplish every bit as much as a more traditional church, with three weekly services, visitation night, and countless additional events — but that’s only because the traditional church isn’t accomplishing that much!
Rather, the tough question is how/whether we can be simple in our weekly format while being highly missional. Can a church that takes up less time just doing church actually spend more time making a difference?
One of the best tests of whether your church is being effectively missional — being a part of God’s mission — is to ask this question: If your church closed its doors tomorrow, other than your members, would anyone notice?
And I would add: would anyone notice other than those to whom you give money? Do you do more than send money to missionaries or to other worthy causes? Not that sending money is wrong or useless. It’s not. It’s just not enough. We can’t buy our way into heaven.
Stetzer’s and Geiger’s introduction
They begin by comparing Dell Computers to traditional businesses. Dell doesn’t warehouse computer. You can’t make money on a computer sitting on a shelf! Rather, they receive components the same day they make the computer and ship the computer the same day they make it.
Sadly many churches are betting their futures on the warehouse myth.
Most churches build big warehouses and shelve a bunch of Christians (those rows look suspiciously like shelves). They design attractive programs to “retain” people in the sacred warehouse, keep precise records of how much inventory (people) is on the shelves, and brag about their warehouses being constantly open. And warehouse managers love to show other warehouse managers their newest warehouses while dreaming together of bigger and better warehouses.
God is calling churches to shatter the warehouse myth, to change their warehouses into strategic distribution centers, where people are distributed as salt and light to the world–sending them out on mission. Some churches are strategically challenging their people to be out there, and these churches have a strategic and simple process that moves people from the warehouse to the street. These churches are simple and missional.
They are simply missional.
Ah … now wouldn’t it be great if we could do less church and more mission? And how would that even look in the Church of Christ context?