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What We Do :: Planting Simple Churches PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ben Cheek   
Tuesday, 19 June 2007

What is a Simple Church?

On any given Sunday, Christians in our churches gather in houses, apartments, public schools, or even addiction recovery clubhouses.  They meet wherever there is room.  In fact, the meeting place really doesn't matter as long as the people are together.  We call this simple church.  The idea is that we can simply be the church when we gather as a community to nurture each other in God's truth and move out on the amazing journey of joining him on his mission.  It's really that simple.

During our gatherings, we pray together, study and discuss the Bible, sing, share our victories and struggles, share the Lord's Supper and often have a meal together.  We take seriously the idea that, "when you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation," so we encourage people to come ready to participate.  We have no set liturgy, no spectators, no distinctions between laity and clergy.  In fact, from group to group our gatherings are really very different, seasoned with the cultural flavor and experiences of the people who come.  Even with all these differences, all our churches have this common DNA:

  1. D - Divine Truth: They draw their direction and inspiration from God's truth as revealed in the Word and in their lives.
  2. N - Nurturing Relationships: They invest their lives in others by loving and being loved so that everyone can grow healthfully.
  3. A - Apostolic Mission:  Apostle means "one sent."  Just as Jesus sent the first Twelve to impact the world, he commissioned them to send all those they had reached with the Good News, including every member of our churches.

Why Plant Simple Churches?

We plant simple churches for several reasons.  First, simple churches are Biblical.  The descriptions of the early church in the Bible tell us that the believers meet wherever they could.  They prayed together, shared together the Lord's Supper, devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching.  They met in houses or in public places.  They were a community that shared life, sought truth, and spread the word about Jesus.

Second, simple churches can be grassroots.  In missions language our churches quickly become "indigenous."  Since our churches are simple -- centered around a few core values -- they can grow in any culture and be truly owned by the people who come.  Since participation in church life, ministry, and leadership is encouraged, people have many opportunities to discover God directly.

Third, simple churches can multiply and spread quickly.  Our churches are highly portable, so they can easily enter any "space" where the Gospel needs to go.  For example, if a group of mature believers reaches a couple of their friends in a nearby neighborhood, instead of removing these new believers from their natural connections, we would encourage a new church to start there.  Perhaps the first church would lend the new start-up a few leaders until they got going.  But once they had the hang of it, the new believers have a network of friendships upon which the Gospel can travel, drawing others in and continuing to spread to new places.

Forth, simple churches are cost effective.  We can start several churches per year in a region of the city for less than it takes to run a small 75-member legacy church (at least $100K/yr. in NYC).  In a city with one of the most expensive real estate markets and cost of living indexes, it makes sense to employ one full-time worker for several churches, to "de-clergy" much of the ministry, and to not be tied down by buildings that will only be used a few days a week.

Helping Churches Plant Churches That Plant Churches

In reality, MetroSoul doesn't plant churches by itself.  It helps church planters and churches plant churches by providing prayer support, training, encouragement, communication links, strategic insight, and resources.  Our hope is to work with local Christians to catalyze a movement to bring Christ to everyone in the metro area.  This movement must be led by churches that plant churches that plant churches.  The success of a city-changing movement will depend upon whether we develop a culture of grassroots ownership and participation in the mission of starting and growing vibrant families of Jesus.

To think in terms of movements, it might be helpful to use this example:  Elephants are wonderful and amazing creatures, but it takes a lot of time and resources to grow an elephant.  If you wanted to spread a population of elephants throughout a given area -- say through a large park in Africa from which they have been extinct -- it would take decades.  Butterflies are equally wonderful and amazing, but it takes very little time and resources to grow butterflies.  In fact, you could spread butterflies over the same area in a matter of only months.  NYC, with all its mid-boggling size and complexity, would take forever to impact with an elephant strategy.  Working with churches to develop butterfly thinking makes impacting the city challenging but possible.

MetroSoul currently works with several legacy churches.  Some of these churches are missionary sending congregations that want to see NYC reached.  Some of these churches are local congregations who have a vision for reaching individuals and people groups that may never enter their doors.  We welcome the involvement of churches of every shape and size.  Even though we have a vision that focuses on building simple churches, we acknowledge the validity of other types of churches and know they will reach people we cannot.  We believe it is in cooperation and fellowship that we will find our greatest strength to accomplish our common mission.

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