Amid "an epidemic of fast-food spirituality" in today's churches, Rainer and Geiger argue for pared-down simplicity: "Big and expanding menus are not producing vibrant churches."

Churches should focus on the process, not programs, and the process should be simple and easily grasped. The goal should be making disciples, not just growth. Most churches have no clear definition of discipleship and no functional process for making disciples.

Churches with a clear disciple-making process are vibrant and growing. "Vibrant" churches do four things: design a simple disciple-making process, organize key programs to accomplish this, unite all ministries around the process, and eliminate everything else. Some of the book's best advice concerns dropping programs that seem successful but contribute nothing to mission.

The authors researched 400-plus evangelical churches in 37 states, mostly Southern Baptist congregations. "Healthy churches" that grew 5 percent annually over three years were compared with plateaued or declining ones. The key difference: the presence or absence of a simple, central disciple-making process.

The book's rather narrow definition of discipleship, with scarcely a mention of justice, and its limited research base should be noted. But this useful, brush-clearing book could help churches of any size move beyond mission statements to real mission.

Related Elsewhere:

Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples is available from and other retailers.

B&H Publishing has more information on Simple Church, including a short video of Thom Rainer talking about the book.

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