Tim and Jill Way

Adventures of the Way Family

Simple Church.

Jesus said, “I will build my church…”  Paul planted churches everywhere he went.  Church is a big deal.  It really seems to be God’s method for carrying out His purposes on earth.  He calls all of His people who belong to Him to also belong to others.  The Bible refers to the Church as the bride of Christ.  Crazy stuff.  In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself to the world through His mighty deeds and revelation given through the people of Israel.  Today, He does this (and more) through the Church.  God loves the Church!  He has great plans and purposes for her.  But we are dissatisfied…

It doesn’t take much to see that a lot of folks are not excited about church.  A lot of Christians.  I’m not just talking about the “I’ve been hurt by church and am bitter” deal.  Or “I’m not getting my needs met.”  Or “I can’t seem to fit in.”  Or “They don’t appreciate my gifts.”  No, there’s something happening on a deeper level.  There is a growing conviction that the Church can do more to reflect the glory and the love of Jesus to a broken world.  That it can be more powerful and more beautiful yet.  We’re not looking for church to demand less of us and offer more… We’re waiting to be challenged to lay down our lives and become more.  We’re searching for family.  We’re looking for the Kingdom of God, and eager to find our part in it.  We’re seeking to fully participate, and no longer simply cheer on the “called.”  We are longing for a new reformation in our generation.

Please note:  this is not a “the church sucks and we should start over” rant.  Not at all.  In fact, I love the church.  I love the church in America.  I love the church in Africa.  I love my local church.  I am committed to it.  And yet…  In order for God’s glory to be made known in our generation, there has to be something new.  New wineskins for new wine.  I think it’s really good for us to go back and ask some basic questions: What is church?  Why do we do church?  And based on this, how do we do church?

At the Bridge, we’re asking these questions, and we’re prayerfully experimenting.  One idea that we keep landing on is what some have called ‘simple church.’  This is not a panacea for all that ails us.  It’s not the only answer.  But it’s one that has captured my heart and imagination.  I’m not sure what different people mean by this term, but it has lead me to four ideas:

1.  Simple structures:  Our ambition is to be a family.  To be lead by spiritual fathers and mothers, not CEOs and CFOs and UFOs and whatever else.  Dads and Moms.  Brothers and sisters.  We aim to be a place of genuine love; a place to belong before a creed to believe.  This in no way discounts sound doctrine and vigorous theology.  We are centered on the Bible.  We study and teach and learn together.  But it’s a matter of order.  First, come and see.  Experience the love of Jesus through His people.  Know that we are a safe people.  That we care.  Belonging leading to believing.  I think the original twelve took a similar journey.  How will this all play out in actual leadership roles and responsibilities and structures?  I’m not sure yet.  But the values that guide this discussion will include simplicity, a relational focus, and lots of grace.

2. Simple finances:  Most churches spend the majority of their money on themselves.  Buildings and equipment and salaries and programs and events.  Simple church can function with much less, and therefore be able to give away a greater percentage to people in need and to the proclaiming of the Gospel in the nations.  We can meet in homes and businesses and parks and restaurants and coffee shops.  We don’t need expensive buildings.  We don’t need to pay as many salaries, because more people are involved in the work of the ministry, giving of their time and gifts.  We are centered on relationships and making disciples more than on programs and events.  We still have some need of finance for these things, but we can be disciplined and simple, ensuring that at least half our income goes to ministry to the poor and the lost and the broken.

3. Simple gatherings.  We try not to focus an a weekly performance, where the professionals minister and the congregation receives.  We strive for participation.  We have structure but also flexibility.  Simple church values small gatherings.  Rather than trying to grow these bigger and bigger, we aim to send and multiply.  We have the chance to reach more people who are not currently walking with Jesus through having multiple small group gatherings rather than one bigger one.  This also demands more people to be involved in leadership and the work of ministry.

4.  Simple focus.  This gets at the heart of the questions:  what is church? and why do we do church?  I am convinced that the Church exists in order to manifest the glory of God in the earth.  We do this primarily through living and proclaiming the Gospel which has been entrusted to us.  We are God’s invitation to the world to come into His family and accept His amazing gift of adoption and salvation.  We display God’s nature when we show love for the poor and oppressed and lost.  We can get caught in the trap of expending all our attention and resources on nurturing and caring for those already on the inside.  This is deadly to our mission.  God’s mission is the redemption of the world, and that is our simple focus.

Simple church.  I’m not sure where this will lead us.  I’m sure we’ll get a lot wrong… but by God’s grace we’ll get some of it right as well.  At the end of the day we still want to be friends who are becoming family and who love Jesus like crazy and are furiously committed to His redemptive mission.  We want to keep dreaming together and serving together.  We want to keep on liking each other and enjoying each other.  That’s pretty much it.  Simple.


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