This was an incredible book because the author articulates so well what I as a pastor try to regularly communicate to our leadership team. I am planning on ordering multiple copies for our board and staff. I have notes and underlines in every chapter. The book is well illustrated with both Biblical and secular references. Browning carefully challenges the status quo by delivering the "here is why this is important" explanations for the decisions they have made as a church. It is not the model of ministry that drives the book, it is the philosophy of ministry that resonated with me for application in my own church. Chapter titles include: Minimality -- keep it simple, Intentionality -- keep it missional, Reality -- keep it real, Multility -- keep it cellular, Velocity -- keep it moving, and Scalability -- keep it expanding.
This book is quite intriguing, with its catchy title: "Deliberate Simplicity". A while back I heard about a church in Washington that had locations in several countries (and continents). At the time it seemed as if they all were piped in by video feed to one location. That impression led me to be quite skeptical of this book (which discusses that very same church network), I must admit.
As I browsed through, and read much of the book, my interest was piqued. Christ the King Community Church aims to be deliberate about three emphases: worship, small groups, and outreach. More than that, they intentionally choose to not make anything else a priority. They encourage ministry to be initiated and fueled by individuals, but they shy away from packing the lives of their members chuck full of programs and church functions. Keeping the main thing, the main thing, this church movement has had a global impact.
With a criticism of the status quo, and an emphasis on new methods for church growth, it would be easy to write this off as another emergent church phenomenon. But upon reading the various emphases covered in Dave Browning's book, I don't think that's a fair assessment. Some valid criticisms are raised against Christians isolating themselves in a counterculture of their choosing. Meanwhile the spotlight is shone on the importance of outreach. What's more, they aim to spread not by building megachurches which attract seekers, but by focusing on small groups where people are encouraged to go out and find the lost. The worship services stress authentic, real worship, that doesn't cater to the lost, but lovingly shares the truth with them. Their honest, passionate message is reaching thousands across our nation and around the world. For that reason alone, Browning's book is worth a look.
I was able to ask Dave, the author and a founding pastor of CTK, a few questions about his book, and he was kind enough to answer them.
Q: I like your focus on being deliberately simple in how we "do church". Does your emphasis on a multi-site, and even multi-country model take away from that simplicity?
A: It has become harder for us as we have continued to expand. But that is not to say it can't be done. It just may take more work and discipline. The two words through which we try to filter our organization are "virtuous" and "empowering." Whatever we do we want it to be virtuous and empowering.
Q: Would you consider yourself a proponent of the Emergent church philosophy? Will the principles in your book help all kinds of churches, not primarily those more open to an Emergent church perspective?
A: I don't consider myself Emergent, but I can't say that I am an expert on that word either. What I have sensed about where I'm coming from, relative to other restless young leaders, is that my learning style has been action/reflection instead of reflection/action. We have gone out and done it first, and then tried to figure out how to describe it. That has been a pretty messy process, but rich in divine discovery. When the process is non-linear it sometimes defies the neat categories. In some ways, CTK is like a can on the shelf without a label on it. You have to open it up and look inside to figure out what it is. I kind of like that. I do think that there are applicable principles that can apply across the theological spectrum.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Zondervan for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.