10 hurdles to overcome in making the transition from legacy to simple church

If the Lord shows you that you are to make the transition from legacy to a network of simple/organic churches, there are a number of obstacles to overcome. (This post assumes you are in a position of church leadership.)

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  1. Many people in your church do not share your vision for the transition. It’s not what they signed up for. As the parable of the wineskins says, “they think the old was better.”
  2. People are scared they will lose the friendships and sense of community  that’s been created over the years.
  3. People are used to a professional standard of church: a worship band, well-prepared sermon etc.
  4. There is no Sunday school program in simple/organic church. People enjoy the freedom to drop their kids off for an hour or so and having some thinking/spiritual time for themselves.
  5. People like decisions being made for them. They don’t want to carry the personal responsibility entailed in simple/organic church.
  6. There are no trained leaders.
  7. How can you prevent heresy?
  8. There is no vision for outreach.
  9. Some of the people who are keen for the transition are the ones disgruntled with the status quo. They will take a negative attitude with them.
  10. The financial welfare of your family depends on the church paying you a salary. You aren’t trained for any other job. What will happen to you?

These are all very valid concerns. It’s worth thinking through the potential problems before embarking on the transition.

What other hurdles can you think of that will need to be overcome?


Multiplication tools; KISS

Simple things multiply; complex things are much harder to reproduce.

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One of my favorite quotes from a Filipino church planter is this: Never do anything in church that a one week old Christian would be unable to duplicate.

Only model what you want to see reproduced and what will lead to multiplication. How is this worked out?

Teaching: an interactive Bible study using simple questions or symbols is more effective and reproducible than a sermon. Since many people’s greatest fear is that of public speaking, if you model a sermon, people will think they have to do this in order to start another church.

Worship: if you have music of a professional standard, people will think they have to have a musician in order to start a church. Better to sing a capella or accompanied by a CD.

Prayer: if you model 5 minute prayer sermons you will inhibit new believers from praying. Better to teach single sentence prayers and for people to pray multiple times.

Food: if you produce a gourmet meal, people will assume they have to produce a similar meal if they have church in their home. Better to have a simple, potluck meal where everyone contributes.

Fellowship: happens naturally over food.

In the church that meets in our home, we tend to use a simple pattern that anyone can reproduce. It’s not the same every time, but most of these elements are usually present. It’s based on Acts 2:42. We share a meal together. Over dessert, we talk about how things have gone during our week together–joys and challenges. Was there an accoutability challenge from the previous week? We share how that went too. We share around the Word. We pray for one another. In all of this we expect the Holy Spirit to lead our time together and we give him freedom to break in.

It’s simple enough that a new believer can copy it.

Simple is not the same as simplistic. We’ve had very profound times together. But it is duplicatable.

So Keep It Simple and Straightforward!

Multiplication tools: passing it on

Does your simple/organic church have an impact beyond the gathering? There’s a simple tool to help with that.


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In the interactive Bible study pattern that we most frequently use and teach to others, four symbols help people share around the passage:

  1. A question mark: do you have any questions about what this verse says?
  2. A lightbulb: this verse brings understanding either about the passage, or about something going on in your own life. The light has come on.
  3. An arrow: God is speaking to you directly through this verse and there’s something you need to do about it
  4. An ear: who do you know who needs to hear what has been shared?

It’s this last symbol that helps to create an impact beyong the gathering. When each person is accountable, not only to apply what they have learned in their own lives but also to pass  it on  to someone outside the group, the influence of the group spreads. When the person they share it with is a not-yet-believer, there is the opportunity to multiply.

We retain only 5% of what we hear, but 90% of what we teach on to others. This practice therefore, not only spreads the message, it also helps people to retain what they have learned.



Multiplication tools: the list

If you want your group to be outward looking, the list is a powerful tool.

In CMA's Life Transformation Groups, each person makes a list of three to four people who are not followers of Jesus that they commit to pray for daily.

In T4T, each person is encouraged to make a list of all the not-yet-believers that they know, and divide them into groups of five. Each week, they pick a group and having prayed for them, try to tell their story to each person.

Do you have a list of people you know who are either not-yet-believers or who are not walking closely with the Lord? 

It's easier to think through the people you know by looking at your circles of influence:

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  1. The people closest to you: your family and closest friends. They don't have to live near you, but maybe you are in email contact with them. This week I offered to pray for a niece who isn't a believer and prayed for her via a facebook message.
  2. People from work: who do you know from work who is not following the Lord? The company president? The person who cleans the building? Your colleagues?
  3. Social acquaintances–people whose names you know and who know your name. Parents of those on your kid's basketball team? People in your neighborhood?
  4. Casual contacts, people you recognize but don't know their names. Your mailman, the girl behind the counter of the coffee shop where you get your morning caffeine fix. 

Practical application: Have the people in your group spend 15 minutes creating a list of all the people they know who are not following Jesus.  Suggest they commit to praying for them and if possible, telling them their story.


Multiplication tools: good invitations and better invitations

There are good invitations, but if you want to see multiplication, there might be better ones:

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You've shared your story, using it as a bridge to a presentation of the good news of the Kingdom. What now?  

It's unusual for someone to say, "How can I become a Christian?" They are much more likely to respond to a specific suggestion from you. Hopefully you've made clear the cost of following Jesus when you shared to good news with them. You could say, "Would you like to invite Jesus into your life," but it might be better to ask, "Are you ready to surrender your life to Jesus?" The one might lead to a decision, the other to a disciple. 

Then teach the new disciple how to share his/her story with his friends and family, inviting them to become Jesus followers too. 

Do you ask the new believer to come with you to church?

There might be a better way. How about, "Do you have any friends who might be interested in learning more about Jesus too? Could we get together with them?"

If you invite someone to come to church with you, whether legacy or house church, you may miss out on the opportunity to reach their oikos, or circle of influence. The slow way to multiply is to add people to your group until it is big enough to multiply into two. The faster way is to start with an existing community and watch them become a church as a group together. So better to meet with the new disciple's existing circle of influence within their familiar environment.

Suggested activity: Would the people in your church know how to pray with someone to become a Christian? Have them practice this skill with each other.



Multiplication tools: the bridge

Telling our story is only a bridge to an explanation of the good news of Jesus.


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Another skill it is good to have in our toolbelt is the ability to explain the Gospel simple and concisely to a not-yet-believer. I'm not talking the Santa Claus Gospel here–invite Jesus into your life and he will give you everylasting peace and joy. I'm talking about  the real good news of the Kingdom–forgiveness of sin, the promise of relationship with God, belonging to a family, all dependent on a total surrender of our lives to the Lordship of Christ.

There are many different and good ways of explaining the Gospel–the Roman Road, the principles of the Four Spiritual Laws, and so on. All of them have their good points and also their drawbacks. They are tools. Useful ones. But have people in your church ever used them? Do they know how to use their story as a bridge to an explanation of the good news? Have they ever said to someone, "Can I explain to you what being a follower of Jesus is about?"

Suggested activity: Choose one pattern of helping someone to become a disciple. Make sure the people in your group thoroughly understand it and then have them pair up and practice explaining the Gospel to the other person in just a minute or two. Again, the other person is to stop them if either religious language is used or if there is something they think an ordinary person with no church experience might not understand.


Free novel by Steve Smith, author of T4T

I have been very challenged and inspired by the book, T4T over recent weeks. It encapsulates the principles of rapid disciple-making movements in an easy to read and apply format.

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The main author, Steve Smith, has just finished a book, The Final Assault: A Novel about Finishing the Task that covers these same principles. He is offering it free for this week only. Obviously I haven't yet had a chance to read it, but it comes highly recommended by people I trust, and I wanted to let the readers of my blog have the opportunity for a free copy. Here is part of an email I received:

CPM Training Colleagues!

See my note below about a novel I have self-published to help us mobilize believers & churches effectively. The book ties in well to the sacrifice, faith and reproducible ways we need for CPMs. For this week only anyone can download it for free. 

Can you guys help me by sending this to any trainers and colleagues worldwide? Feel free to send to your training networks.  Feel free to send this to your personnel and prayer networks. 

Together may we see His kingdom come!

Steve Smith – Singapore 

As an attempt to mobilize the worldwide church to finish the task, I have finally published a novel that has been 18 years in the making from my USA church planting/pastoring days to my Strategy Coordinator for an unreached people group days to my CPM trainer days to my current role in Southeast Asia. Its goal is to provide a fast-paced, inspiring, readable alternative to average believers and pastors that might not read a normal book on missions.


This novel follows multiple intertwined story lines revolving around a small church pastor in Los Angeles who gets captivated by the ancient mission of the church to finish the task of engaging all people groups with the gospel. With the finish line in sight, this group begins to rally Christians around the world by their dedication and wartime mindset to join them in final assault on the enemy’s ground. 

Their goal is to be the in the last generation that welcomes the return of Christ. Swirling around this dedicated, growing band are the events that Revelation describes will assault the kingdom before the end. The novel follows a captivating, realistic (yet fantastic) story line of the enemy and his mechanisms to attempt to thwart this final run for the finish line.  The book finishes in a glorious climax that makes the sacrifices more than worth it. 

The novel incorporates faith-filling and practical pieces that will inspire believers and churches in HOW to get involved in the task seriously, how to plant reproducing churches and even how to tie it into current best practices. 

As the church becomes sufficiently mobilized around the world and walks in great devotion to the Lord and His Commission, we CAN finish the task. Help us spread the word! 


Since I am self-publishing this on Kindle (not hardcopy), I have been able to price this very cheaply to put it in as many hands as possible, including a limited-time free offer. There are multiple ways people can get this onto their Kindle or Kindle Reader (almost any computer, pad or smartphone can download Kindle Reader for free):

·        Purchase it on Amazon for just $2.99

o    http://www.amazon.com/The-Final-Assault-Finishing-ebook/dp/B007RMTJSI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1333765079&sr=1-1

§  (To get a free Kindle reader for almost any platform, go to the following website: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771)

·        Amazon Prime members can borrow it for free for the next 90 days

·        Special 5-day offer – From approximately April 10-14, 2012 (Pacific Standard Time) anyone can download this book for FREE from Amazon (see website above) on their Kindle. Please let as many people as possible know about this. I would like to request that downloaders post a review on Amazon if possible. 


I would like to ask your help in not only reading the book but placing a review on the Amazon website. This will help us get the word out as we try to mobilize the church worldwide. 


I would like to ask you to forward this email to as many people as possible, especially church and mission leaders to distribute to their email networks. Let’s get the word out so that the church may be built up and equipped for its calling. 

Thanks for your help! 

Steve Smith