Back in 2006 Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger collaborated on a book entitled Simple Church. They call for a re-examination of how we approach our work as Kingdom people and how we can benefit greatly by simplifying and streamlining our Kingdom actions.
I was encouraged in the first paragraph of chapter one to discover that they are not offering some new model of doing church. They don’t get caught up in the emergent discussion nor an analysis of postmodern culture and the societal phenomenon so popular in ministry books in the past several years.
Read the book yourself and you will find they reduce their ideas to four simple words. Clarity, Movement, Alignment and Focus. I appreciate their faithfulness in keeping the book simple and straightforward.
Chapter 5 concludes with a section which particularly resonated with me. The idea is developed with the point that there is a major difference between a travel agent and a tour guide. A story is shared of a particular incident where one of the authors is researching an upcoming white water rafting trip.
The metaphor continues…. “A travel agent will mail you brochures. A travel agent will suggest a few rafting outfitters and a river to enjoy.” “A travel agent spouts out intellectual information, hands you some brochures, and smiles. A travel agent tells you to enjoy the journey. “Nice to meet you. Enjoy the trip.”
A tour guide is different. Their response is “Nice to meet you. Get in. Let’s go.”
The illustration becomes more specific and we are introduced to a character named, “Tripp”.
What makes Tripp a great tour guide is not his information. Even some of the local travel agents have the information. Tripp is great because of his love for the journey and because he takes you with him…..He does not instruct from a distance. He is with you. He is on the bus with you from the outfitter to the river. He is in the raft with you. And, if things do not go as planned, he is in the river with you.
Tripp has been where he is taking you. He is able to instruct because he is familiar with the journey. He speaks from a place of personal authority, and you listen. He is not perfect. His boat may tip over with you in it. But he is credible.
Well that’s enough of ripping off large quotes from the book. You get the idea.
Rainer and Geiger are promoting is not a church model here. It is about being a disciple. It is about following Jesus and inviting others to join in on the journey.
In order for Christians to be effective in spiritual formation of others, we must be willing to be sojourners. We must transcend the role of just dispensing information. We must get in the raft. We must stay engaged with the adventure of Christian living.
It’s risky. It’s unpredictable. It’s challenging. But it’s the simple way to bring people to Jesus.