Recently, I decided to go back and read some classic books that it had been years since I first read. I figured that if I can read my Bible continuously, why not go back and re-read some books that were foundational in my ministry and life?

One of the books that I decided to re-read was Simple Church. I can’t express to you how much that book resonated with me the first time I read it. It was a breath of fresh air and struck a chord deep within me. So, I dusted it off and started to read it again this Monday.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter One – The Simple Revolution Has Begun:

Simple church leaders are designers. They design opportunities for spiritual growth. Complex church leaders are programmers. They run ministry programs.

Church leaders who are programmers focus on one program at a time. Their goal, though never stated, is to make each program the best. Church leaders who are designers are focused on the end result, the overall picture. They are as concerned with what happens between the programs as with the programs themselves.

The simple church leaders we surveyed were expert designers. They were not the producers of spiritual growth and church vitality. Only God is the producer of the growth. But like the apostle Paul, these church leaders are expert builders (see 1 Cor. 3:10). They have skillfully designed an environment where life change is likely to occur. They have designed a simple process that moves people through stages of spiritual growth.

To have a simple church, you must design a simple discipleship process. This process must be clear. It must move people toward maturity. It must be integrated fully into your church, and you must get rid of the clutter around it.

Maybe you never thought of yourself as a designer. Maybe you’re more comfortable with the description of a builder. I urge you to strive for both. To my programmer friends, maybe you really resonated with the statement: “Their goal, though never stated, is to make each program the best.” Maybe that stings a little. We’re supposed to strive for excellence, right? Sure. Dig deeper!

A designer is focused on the end result and sees the overall picture – that’s the key difference that I want us to chew on today. Maybe you’re too busy being busy and His yoke is not easy for you. Maybe you’re in a system that is unhealthy. Maybe you need to go away on a retreat and prayerfully read through Simple Church as a leadership team.

I don’t know what your particular situation is, but I felt led to share this challenge with you and encourage you to be an INTENTIONAL and STRATEGIC (my two favorite words) designer. Work hard on a simple discipleship process that is clear to all. If I visited your church, would I be overwhelmed? Would I know my next step? Would I be given the opportunity to grow in Christ?

So, dear friends, are you a designer or a programmer?

Greg Atkinson

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