There is a movement called Simple Church, a neo-Reformationist removal of the structures of the modern Western church, in hopes of being relevant.  But others, such as Rick Warren, say you don’t have to toss aside the form of church to be effective.  Warren has said (here) that people always need to find meaning and purpose in life, to have the grand mysteries of the universe explained in terms they can understand, and to be part of something important.  Simply that.

Simple church is a movement of community.  Most are house churches.  There is  no altar, no baptistery, no pews.  The nursery is one of the bedrooms, the fellowship hall is the kitchen.   Services are usually conducted in the living room.

I call them “neo-Reformationist” based on practices in many Reformation churches, especially in Switzerland, where the statuary and stained glass were removed.  Originally installed as teaching aids to illiterate parishioners, the people had come to revere the icons instead of the principles they stood for.  The reformers chose plain white unornamented clapboard buildings with clear glass to keep the  focus on the scripture and not the facility.

Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger describe Simple Church as an organizing principle to move people toward spiritual growth, saying that anything that gets in the way of that organizing principle should be discarded.  Church becomes decluttered from the programs and ministries that take away from that core function.  As Collins (Good to Great) would say, the good things are removed so the right things can be done. (see their notes here.)

But what Rick Warren was saying in his 18-minute “Q-Talk” is that the only organizing principle, the only purpose of a church is to be effective at sharing the Gospel and leading people to maturity in their faith.  It doesn’t so much matter what strategy or program you use so long as it matches the people you are trying to reach and it gets results for the Kingdom of God.  What matters is if you can connect with people.

Warren quotes Einstein as saying, “You can be brilliant but if you can’t say it in simple ways, it doesn’t, its not worth anything.”  You have to speak the language of the people.  Not that you can’t describe theology.  Not that you have to use all their words.  But you do need to address their needs.

If you want a vibrant church, don’t worry about this program or that improvement.  Worry about what you say and how you’re involved in the lives of the people of the congregation.  Help them deal with the core issues of life. That’s enough.