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5 Common Barriers to Becoming a Simple Church

Yes, many of our churches are too complex.

LifeWay's new president-elect, Dr. Thom S. Rainer, dean of Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (Photo: LifeWay)

Yes, many of our churches are too complex.

You've heard my advocacy of the simple church on more than one occasion. Too many congregations are wasting precious time, money, and energy doing too much.

Simply stated, many of our churches are complex churches. In fact, the churches are so complex that they have ceased to do ministry effectively.

Too many programs. Too many meetings. Too many events. Too many ministries.

You get the picture.

Now the question is: Why? Why do we allow our churches to become complex churches? Or to state it differently: What are some common barriers to becoming a simple church? I see five of them again and again.

  1. Traditionalism. We do the same things we've always done because we've always done them that way before. If that sounds redundant, it is. We just can't get out of our boxes of comfort and false security.
  2. Lack of clear vision. We pile on program after program and meeting after meeting because we have no clear plan or vision. A good vision will lead the church to say "yes" or "no" in a healthy fashion.
  3. Fear. Many leaders fear the consequences of even suggesting the elimination of some programs, ministries, or activities. I know of no simple church without courageous leaders.
  4. Coasting. This barrier is similar to fear. Some leaders don't want to rock the boat. They just want to hang on to their jobs or their peaceful existence. But the courageous leader is never a coasting leader.
  5. Failure to evaluate. I have encouraged churches to consider a zero-based ministry every year. Ask the question: What ministries, programs, and meetings would we have if we had a clean slate? How would it look differently than our current schedule? Too many churches are eager to add but fearful to subtract.

Complex and busy churches are normative for too many congregations. And, ironically, the complex church is a church that is simply too busy for its members to minister effectively.

The simple church gives members the time they need to minister to their families and to the communities in which they live.

And those are the churches that are truly making a difference.

Originally posted at

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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