The beauty behind simple and organic churches is the belief that every Christian is called to participate in the life and mission of the church. It revolves around the notion that the laity encompasses a greater capacity to minister than we give them credit for. With that conviction in mind, we implement strategies that allocate more power to the average disciple. We encourage more people to lead, baptize, preach, prophecy, evangelize, etc. As Neil Cole puts it, “We lower the bar of how we do church and raise the bar of discipleship”. I’d say that lines up pretty well with my way of thinking.

However, what I’ve realized over the past few years is that a simple church must eventually face complexities. The only thing simple about this particular ministry process is the initial stage or front end of discipleship. Evangelism can be pretty easy and getting someone baptized doesn’t take a lot of know how and expertise. The problem with a simple reproducible model is the moment it faces the mid-game, the half way point of growth. It’s the moment we encounter the complexities of discipleship and pastoring. We see church planting movements all over the book of Acts, but we also read about the messy reality of church growth in the Epistles. Discipleship goes far beyond a Philip and Ethiopian eunuch encounter.

Think about it. What happens when a couple in your group breaks up? What do you do when your bible study plateau’s? What happens when the answers to questions aren’t found in the collective voice of your community? How do you deal with members in your group who have depression or a bipolar disorder? How do you resolve conflicts within your group? These are all very real problems that do not have simple solutions. Deliverance doesn’t always get rid of the mental illness, prayer doesn’t always heal a broken heart, and correcting a brother doesn’t always resolve the disunity. I’m not saying that the leader needs to have all the answers or that we’re aiming for perfect communities, but leadership does require a level of wisdom that knows how to adapt to such situations. So the questions is, how do you deal with complex issues in a simple system?

I ask this question because I really like the simple system. I get the necessity of reproduction and a model of leadership that can be emulated by the masses, however, in training my leaders, I’m realizing how important it is to prepare them for the hard realities that follow the honeymoon stages of ministry. We mustn’t ignore the necessity of maturity when it comes to leadership and mentorship. I want every single member in my church to be a disciple-maker, but simply teaching them inductive methods of studying the Bible with another person is not enough training to help them overcome the inevitable plateau’s that take place in the discipleship relationship. They need a strong character and an intimate relationship with God. We need versatile leaders who know how to adapt as changes come their way.

However, in the books and blogs I’ve read and in the teachings I’ve heard in this missional renaissance, you either get people dumbing the discipleship process down or you get others who clergisize (I literally JUST made that word up) or raise the bar of who can lead to an unnecessarily high level. Both sides are reacting to one another, and it’s doesn’t help me very much.

I’m hoping to unravel some ways in which to maximize the number of disciple-makers in my church without compromising the sustainability of their discipleship relationships. I realize that I need to trust God to guide each disciple-maker as they minister, but I also acknowledge my responsibility to equip the saints for the (long-term) work of the ministry.

Anyone out there want to take a crack at dealing with this dilemma? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve only got a few of my own that I’m attempting to articulate in a future (part 2) post.


5 thoughts on “How Simple Churches deal with Complex Issues

  1. I think there’s actually a really simple answer to your questions of how to deal with complexity: commitment. If you as a leader are committed to the individuals in your church, committed to helping them grow, committed to loving them when it’s difficult to, and committed to listening to their issues- then you are showing them how they should be acting towards the people they will one day disciple. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the answers right away- it matters if you have the heart to spend time finding the answers that will really benefit your church. Especially in this culture where everyone is always “busy” and always about “take care of yourself first, then other people”, it is really vital (I think) to leave yourself open to really spending time with your church laypeople. I mean, Jesus spent 3 years almost 24 hours a day with his disciples.

    It goes without saying that this commitment to loving others is secondary, though, to committing yourself to continually being discipled yourself by spending time with older Christians and with Jesus.

    Just my opinion.

    1. Sorry if the previous post wasn’t clearly related to specific points in your blog.

      “What happens when a couple in your group breaks up? What do you do when your bible study plateau’s? What happens when the answers to questions aren’t found in the collective voice of your community? How do you deal with members in your group who have depression or a bipolar disorder? How do you resolve conflicts within your group? These are all very real problems that do not have simple solutions.”

      I think what I mean to say is that for these situations, if you willingly spend time meeting with and praying with the individuals involved, and you consistently commit to being available to help your church members deal with these kind of things, then your church members will follow suit. If you are always “too busy” then you are sending the message that it’s okay to be “too busy” even if someone really needs help, which is not good.

      1. Amen. Commitment is definitely an answer to this dilemma. That’s probably the most undervalued and underdeveloped asset a leader needs to embody in their communities. I agree that commitment is simple, but it sure isn’t easy. I know you and Jan show this kind of faithfulness in your CG and I think it’s a great example for other in our church.

        Have you ever experienced a time when your commitment didn’t seem to overcome the issues you were dealing with in you group? While staying faithful and available, what were other factors that helped you face complexities?

  2. Well, sometimes if thinks are just awful and you’ve done everything you can, I think you forget that it’s not ultimately up to you to resolve things. You can’t change people’s hearts. Sometimes you just have to be patient and pray that God will. For both of the situations that I felt like I was literally going crazy because of how bad things were, God definitely moved and changed those people’s hearts. So I still think commitment is the answer- but sometimes it’s being committed to pray and ask God for help because you know there’s NO other way that the problems can be solved. I mean, not that you shouldn’t be praying about it already, but sometimes prayer is the only thing you can do, because that’s how God has decided he wants to work in that situation- he wants to change things not through your own effort, but through his power. This is especially true when you are trying to love everyone in the Church and disciple everyone but some people have pretty serious emotional baggage they are dealing with that is affecting their actions. That kinda stuff only God can work out.

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