This past Sunday at our mission meeting we studied the concept of a structurally simple church. Basically, A simple church has the end goal in mind and has sequential steps in place to make that end goal happen. In a church the goals can vary, but essentially they include a member who worships God, is growing in faith and fellowship with other believers and is living their faith through witness and service. That is a lot to cover! Since we also had a chili cook-off, I think it might be possible to illustrate the basic concept of a simple church by comparing it to a chili cook-off. Obviously, this is a stretch, but the goal of a chili cook-off is much simpler so it is easier to illustrate
To start, you must have your end goal in mind. For our cook-off, the goal was for everyone to enjoy a variety of chili and ultimately pick the best chili. The most important aspects of the cook-off are people enjoying themselves and, of course, chili.
Simple structure needs to be put in its place. Rarely is structure the most important part of an event. In this case, structure is not as important as either enjoyment or chili, but a simple structure was important because it helped everyone to have a good time and it helped us enjoy the chili. I will try to explain how below.
Clarity—without clarity, we would be in trouble. What if people did not know what the event was, what to bring, how to vote, or even where it was being held? It may sound rudimentary, but in our cook-off scenario, the invitation made the process clear. Every family was to bring chili to my house and a winner was going to be chosen at the event.
Movement-is the concept of sequential steps in a process that help people move toward the end goal. In a church, if your goal were to have people growing in their faith, it would be helpful if you had logical steps. For example, you may expect a member to move from a Bible Basics class, to a membership class, to a small group or Sunday Bible class and maybe ultimately help lead one of these classes. If new member does not know these steps or does them out of order, you are going to run into frustration.
I will not get into all the details, but to have a successful cook-off there is a certain beneficial order to the process: Cooking, bringing, set-up, tasting, voting, declaring.
Focus–the commitment to abandon those areas that fall outside the simple ministry process. In our case, there was no pumpkin carving, Luther seal coloring, or even requests to bring desserts. Why? Although these could have been fun, the end goal was clear and these other items would have simply confused the process. This is the most difficult part of a simple structure because everyone needs to be on the same page—seeing the same end goal.
If we as a group can put this much thought into the structure of a chili cook-off, is there any reason we would not put in exponentially more time and thought into the structure we use to make disciples through God’s Word? The answer to that question seems pretty simple.