What I learned from “Simple Church”

Simple Church Banner
picture source: Eric Carpenter (eric-carpenter)

Eric Carpenter, the editor of Simple Church: Unity within Diversity wrote on the first page of his book:

'"Tom,

My hope is that God will use this book for your edification.
May it be a blessing to you!"

- Eric Carpenter'

The following are short excerpts, shorts quotes which show what I found the most interesting about this book and what I generally learned from this book:

"With confidence in God's directing power through the Spirit, we can trust God to direct our steps as we learn to listen. As opportunities arise to encourage others, God is faithful in prompting us to stir them up in some way. We can simply ask the Lord for guidance throughout the day and trust Him to lead us into the works he had prepared beforehand for us to walk in. Only then can we truly understand through experience what it means to be a slave and to be free at the same time." (Bobby Auner, p. 28-29)
"As a result of spending time in the presence of the Lord our life will come from a new source, that of spiritual illumination in our innermost parts." (Ibid., p. 30)
"Is there grace for our failures? Yes, there absolutely is, but if we are seeking to treasure Jesus, we should also be seeking to love who and what He loves." (Edwin Aldrich, p. 42)
'That is the goal: to treasure Jesus Christ so much that people cannot help but recognize that it is love for Jesus above all other things that drive[s] us to do what we do." (Ibid.)
"The Holy Spirit is both necessary and sufficient for church life. Without Him we will be helpless no matter what we add in the way of teaching, study, organization, structure, or tradition. But if we have the Spirit and add all these things anyway we will find we have added nothing fundamental. Indeed, much that we add may get in the way." (Chris Jefferies, p. 48)
"When we meet, the Spirit meets with us. After all, Jesus lives in each one of us, and the Holy Spirit fills us to overflowing. Usually that overflowing serves to inform our meetings, guide our thoughts, lift our hearts into the presence of the Most High, and speak to us moment by moment in our lives. The Spirit prompts this one to sing a particular song, that one to share some verses from the Bible, another to pray in a tongue, and yet another to interpret. One person tells about something that happened during the week, another one brings a prophecy. And through these gifts we serve one anotherso that together we all receive the full picture. That picture always resembles Christ.

This is normal church life when we meet together, just as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Ephesians 4. And meeting like that is far more rewarding and encouraging than any human wisdom or knowledge or music could ever be." (Ibid., p. 50)
"Do we have a program that cannot honor the least among us? Let us revise program to include them! Do we have a structure that can deny a believer the legitimate use of their gifts? Let us revise the structure!" (Steve Scott, p. 58)
'Church leadership also has limitations. Its pastors/elders are admonished by Peter to "... shepherd the flock of God among you ... nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock" (1 Pet 5:2-3). Shepherds should never control, manipulate, dictate, or make their own rules about other people's lives, but should serve as examples for others to follow.' (ibid.)
"Is it ever right to separate over theology? If so, when? How can we hold to theological convictions humbly without causing division?" (chuck McKnight, p. 62)
"The unity of believers is intended as a primary reason for the world to believe in Jesus. Our unity is supposed to prove God's love. Is it any wonder that unbelievers scoff at a Christ whose followers are so divided? (Ibid., p. 63-64)
'As for heresy, it comes from the Greek hairesis, which means a "division." Similarly, the word for heretic means a "divisive person." So when Paul instructed Titus to reject a heretic, he meant to reject anyone set on creating disunity.' (Ibid., p. 65)
"Heresy, as Biblically defined, is not a matter of wrong theology. Even correct theology can be heresy when used divisively. Division itself is the heresy warned about in the Bible." (ibid.)
"Why - given that the Bible so explicitly forbids it - have we so consistently chosen to divide over theology? The answer, quite simply, is a matter of pride." (Ibid., p. 67)
"Our own pride turns theology into a matter of division. We pridefully assume that our own theological grounding - whichever camp we happened to be born or converted into - is the version that finally got it all right. Or we pridefully suppose that our own intelligence or ability to study and interpret is of a greater quality than others. Pride makes us so certain of our own rightness that we're willing to divide over beliefs. This pride flies in the face of our duty as believers." (ibid., p. 67-68)
'paul instructed us to "be of the same mind." This does not mean having exactly the same theology. Rather, it means sharing a singular focus. We should be so fixed on the "one purpose" - Jesus Christ - that nothing else can become a reason for division.' (Ibid., p. 68)
"It is good to hold convictions about what we believe. And it is certainly appropriate to discuss theology with fellow believers. But it must be done humbly. (Ibid.)
"I'm for a church that neds no statement of faith as a source of unity, because it is fully united around Jesus Christ." (Ibid., p. 70)
"I hope we never get over the truth that the perfect, all-powerful God is willing to forgive our sins. This is at the very heart of the Gospel. Because Christ has paid it, we don't have to. If we will repent and believe, we will be saved." (Eric Carpenter, p. 85-86)
"Jesus stresses that the world will know we are His disciples by our love for each other. One key way we show love for one another is through a supernaturally-given motivation and willingness to forgive each other freely. It is becasue the world does not understand it that it will stand out." (Ibid., p. 89)
'The vision for the church as a community of peacemakers is nothing less than a living out of the Gospel: loving our enemies; service as the highest calling; humility, love, and self-denial as the most precious attributes; counting others as more important than ourselves. All of these notions run cmpletely counter to our prevailing culture. More often than not the church refelcts the "me first" attitude of the culture rather than the "enemy love" attitude of Christ. Setting aside our own safety, preferences and wants in favor of others is an otherworldly manifestation of the as yet to be culminated rebirth of all things under the direct eternal reign of Christ. Something so supernatural can only result from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.' (Arthur Sido, p. 93)
 "In our eagerness to see earthly justice done and our rights upheld we are reflective of the pagan norms of the world rather than the enemy loving, self-denying norms of the Kingdom." (Ibid., p. 95)
"To be a peacemaker within the church is as simple as seeing others as more important than yourself. That is all well and good in theory, but peacemaking is one of the most difficult traits in the church to live out. This is particularly the case in the West where individualism and appeals to "rights" are so deeply entrenched in our thinking. As is always the case the Scriptures give us guidance on this matter." (Ibid., p. 96)
'Christ turned worldly notions of greatness on their head and declared that the humble servant is greater than the exalted, emphasized by His powerful declaration "It shall not be so among you". Leadership in the church is the antithesis of worldly leadership. Leaders in the church are to be the humblest of servants who lead through example, gentle persuasion, and service rather than by force and declaration.' (Ibid., p. 97-98)
"This Kingdom ethic of peacemaking is not something we can compartmentalize into a narrow set of circumstances where we will allow Jesus to have His say. Instead we are called to model this ethic in those areas where it is the most difficult, turning on its head the world's expectations for behavior." (Ibid., p. 98)
"It is just as important, perhaps even more so, to be peacemakers in the workplace, in our mixed families, in our schools, and among our friends than it is to be peacemakers when we are on our best Sunday behavior." (ibid.)
"The peacemaking manner of life in the church can be one of the most powerful witnesses to the outside world, a critical passport to building relationships with those who need to hear the Gospel." (Ibid.)
"Throughout church history, from the martyrs of the earliest days of the church to the Anabaptist martyrs to missionaries like Jim Elliot, the church has relied on the powerful witness of peacemaking to demonstrate in our deeds the enemy-loving Gospel of Jesus Christ. We desperately need to recover this way of life in the church today. Nothing less than the Great Commission itself is at stake." (Ibid., p. 98-99)
"In the comfortable confines of the United States we don't tend to suffer as much as the rest of the world. However, we still have to face accidents, natural disasters, crime, and incurable diseases. No one is free from suffering. It is just a matter of the details. I do not mean to sound fatalistic. Rather, this is simply the reality of the sin-soaked world in which we reside." (Eric Carpenter, p. 102)
"Sometimes Christians, at least in the comfy West, act surprised that they might suffer for Jesus. This surprise shows a lack of understanding that suffering is a normal part of the Christian life." (Ibid., p. 104)
"All believers have likely been hurt by other believers. We've also probably hurt others. This is something that should not happen and should not be normal." (Ibid., p. 106)
"When we suffer for King Jesus, we can take joy in our heavenly reward." (Ibid., p. 108)
"We may even suffer because of the church. I hope, for your sake, that this is minimal because it is not aprt of God's plan." (Ibid., p. 109)
"When Christ is seated in His rightful place in the lives of believers, fellowship takes place." (Stephanie Bennett, p. 126)
"Unity is the natural result of fellowship, but only when the commonality of Christ is allowed to take precedence." (Ibid., p. 126-127)
"It is one of the most wonderful things in the world to experience the blessed ties that bind hearts together in Christian love. Many have never experienced this kinship, and for that I grieve." (Ibid., p. 128)
"We have the opportunity to walk in the oneness of Christor walk in division. Which will it be?" (Ibid., p. 129)
"The church that is united is one that is not perfect, but is alligned with the Perfect Man, the Second Adam, the One who has only one Bride." (Ibid.)
"The church that is unified is made up of a people who are daily endeavoring to walk in the oneness that is God's heart for us. It is a people who are dedicated to helping one another walk in such a way that Christ's preeminence in our lives is attained. Are there two of you in accord? Seven? One thousand? Are you walking together endeavoring to put Christ first?" (Ibid., p. 129-130)
"There is no support for an elite category of Christians in the New Testament." (Kathleen Ward, p. 133)
"Throughout the New Testament, one person alone is given position and rank in His church - Christ Jesus." (Ibid.)
<<Jesus explicitly warns His disciples not to let anyone else take His rightful place: "You are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not  call anyone on earth 'Father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah" (Matt 23:8-12). Only Jesus can be our Lord, our Rabbi, our leader, the Head of his body. These are not positions for any human to fulfil. This is in stark contrast to the hierarchy-based approach to church which positions the "Senior Pastor" as the visible head of the local church, a kind of mediator between God and his people.>> (Ibid., p. 134)
"The church was never meant to be divided into leaders and followers, masters and servants, teachers and leaders, rabbis and disciples - we are all followers, all servants, all learners, all disciples, equals under one head." (Ibid., p. 134-135)
'paul goes on to reinforce the importance of every individual in this process: "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Eph 4:16, emphasis mine). A body where some parts are not able to do their work is weakened, diseased, and handicapped. A church model where less than half the members are actively involved and empowered is literally a paraplegic body.' (Ibid., p. 135)
'We follow a King who rode a donkey, who washed His followers' feet, whose coronation was a crucifixion, who laid aside His right to equality with God and took on the form of a servant.

Unlike the power-hungry ways of the world, "leadership" in the church is always framed in terms of servanthood or building others up. We are never to "lord it over" or "exercise authority over" one another as the "rulers of the Gentiles" do (Matt 20:25). (Ibid., p. 136)
"Here is what that looks like in the church: the mature mentor the immature, the elders instruct the younger, the rich share with the poor, those who have gifts equip the others for acts of service, the powerful defend the powerless, and the strong bear with the failings of the weak. Nobody ever positions themselves in Christ's rightful place, as Head of the church." (ibid.)
"We need to be willing to step off the stage and into the circle." (Ibid., p. 137)
"Rather than pretending we are fine and limping along, we should be humble and reveal our weakness." (Alice Carpenter, p. 144)
"A solo is great to hear every once in a while; however, you hear the beautiful music of the church most clearly when everyone is playing instruments together. We are a people that God has called to play instruments with our focus on the Maestro - Jesus." (Brian Swan, p. 151-152)
"The church that gathers for mutual edification does so because it understands that there are a plethora of one anothers in the New Testament that cannot be ignored." (Will Rochow, p. 156)
"The one anothers are extremely important. Jesus said that whatever we do for even the least, we ultimately do for Him. Conversely, whatever we fail to do for the least, we likewise fail to do for Him (Matt 25:31-46). We err greatly if we take that truth too lightly." (Ibid., p. 157)
"We do not have to agree with each other, but the concept of genuinely and unpretentiously loving each other is not optional; it is a commandment." (Ibid., p. 160)
"Could it be that God is less interested in our man-made doctrines than we've previously thought?" (Ibid.)
'Jesus turned the concept of hierarchical leadership upside down. He said His greatest followers will be those who serve others. As Luke recorded, Jesus said, "Let the leader among you be the one who serves."

For followers of Jesus, this is a very important statement. Instead of seeking positions of leadership, followers of Jesus should seek to serve others. Instead of following people because of their positions, they should follow the example of those who serve otehrs. Importantly, this is not "servant leadership." Servant leadership still focuses on the act of leading - making decisions or directing others - while serving. However, Jesus focused on service, not leading. He removed the act of leading from the equation completely.' (Alan Knox, p. 164-165)
'The religious leaders liked their titles and required people to use these same kind of titles. According to Jesus, leaders among His people are not recognized by their titles, which would point to a certain position. Instead, once again, He said that leaders are those who serve others: "The greatest among you will be your servant."' (Ibid., p. 165)
'As indicated above, in the New testament passages that use the verb translated "lead"  or the noun translated "leader" in the context of Jesus' followers, the author is referring to someone who serves as an example or guide by serving others. The authors do not use the terms "lead" or "leader" among the church to refer to someone who makes decisions for others, or someone who directs the affairs of others. As Jesus said about that form of leadership, "It is not to be this way among you."' (Ibid., p. 167)
"Among the church today, leadership is often viewed as the greatest type of service. Jesus turned this around completely. He demonstrated and taught that service is actually the greatest form of leadership." (ibid.)
"The question is not so much what percentage of my money should be given back to the Lord; bur rather, what portion of what I have been assigned to manage should be utilized for my personal needs?" (Guy Muse, p. 174-175)
'If storehouse tithing was an Old Testament command and reference point, in the New Testament we find Paul encouraging new believers, "each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart ..." This is the freedom we have to liberally and generously give as each of us purposes in our hearts.' (Ibid., p. 176)
"People seem to have a natural excitement about giving when they know that every single penny will go to help people in need." (Keith Giles, p. 185)
'Love is the meeting of needs, providing hope, and "no strings attached" support that always costs more than we think it will at the start. That's why sacrifice is necessary anytime that love is involved. Meeting someone else's needs to the detriment of our own is sacrificial love. And nothing imparts value, honor, and appreciation like sacrificial love. Dare I say that it is a bit of a theme with the cross?' (Bonar Crump, p. 195)
'Perhaps the most difficult thing for many of us to grasp about the Kingdom of God is it complete "upsidedownness." Kingdom principles seem to run completely counter to our human sense of entitlement and privilege.' (Steve Sensenig, p. 199)
"It is not self-denial simply for the purpose of gaining some greater spiritual existence for ourselves; it is self-denial for the purpose of providing a greater spiritual existence (or even just a greater physical existence) for others." (Ibid., p. 201)
'In the Christian perspective, creation is outside of God, by His deliberate act. Therefore, it is inferior to Him but not diabolically opposite as the word "worldly" might imply in some settings.' (J. Michael Jones, p. 214)
"The body of Christ is meant to be a healing agent in restoring dignity. It's the place to clear the rubble together." (Kathy Escobar, p. 219)
"Without the combination of God and people, we will probably not find healing. We need both." (Ibid., p. 220)
"We are called to participate together in community to help remove each other's grave clothes so that we can come to life so that God's image in each of us can emerge freely and fully." (Ibid., p. 222)
"Jesus restored dignity to people who had lost it - the sick, the lame, the broken, the desperate, the outcasts, the marginalized, the least, the last. Over and over, He healed them, lifted their heads, and touched them with hope. Hope that the Kingdom of God was available now and it wasn't only for the learned, the put-together, the well, and the powerful. It was available for all those who were humble enough to admit their spiritual poverty and need for God." (Ibid., p. 222-223)
'Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is available to us now, and that part of our responsibility as Christ-followers is to participate in bringing heaven to earth. To me, that means we're called to be the lifter of heads, to be dignity restorers. To call each other to be all we were created to be. To nurture a spirit of equality, justice, mercy, love, and hope in the spaces and places we find ourselves in so that all can flourish. So that the "abundant life" that Jesus speaks about in John 10 could actually be realized.

God's work in our lives - and the work of the church - is to participate in calling out each other's dignity.' (Ibid., p. 224)
"We are invited to the party. We are welcome to join the family, not because of how great we are, but because of how great He is." (Jeremy Myers, p. 228)
"The Gospel is a wide-ranging message about what God has done for the entire world through the life, teachings, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It not only contains truths about how a person can go to heaven when they die, but also about how a follower of Jesus can live here on earth." (Ibid., p. 255)
"Though the Gospel brings unity, it does not bring uniformity. The Gospel does not create clones, but creates a multifaceted family, full of vibrant color, unique perspectives, and multi-dimensional ministries." (Ibid., p. 257)
'One thing often overlooked in this passage is that every part has a voice. The foot has a mouth. It has a voice. Even the ear, the part used for listening, "speaks." No one in the church should be silenced when it comes to the transmission of the Gospel.' (Miguel Labrador, p. 265)
"We hinder the Gospel when we don't allow people to accept it as it is and demand that they add our laws/criteria/requirements." (Ibid., p. 269)

[More expanded excerpts might be added to this website in other places.]

In his introduction, the editor made clear that all contributors don’t agree with everything the other contributors write.

I do not agree with Travis Klassen in that he claims the imputed righteousness as the only means of getting holiness and that “there is [consequently] no way to become holier”. (p. 111-117, quote: p. 116)

Neither do I agree with Jeremy Myers’ “Once-saved-always-saved, easy-believism grace”, which replies to the question: “So… does this mean that I can just go sin all I want?” an unashamed “Yes”, “Nowhere does He [God/Paul] say that grace will cease if we sin too much.” and “Nowhere does Scripture say that one reason we should not sin is because if we do, God will reject us, condemn us, stop loving us, or come to the end of His grace toward us. No, even if we sin, sin a lot, sin intentionally, and take advantage of grace to sin all we want (…).”. (p. 227-235, quotes: p. 230)

I hope this blog post helped you too, in learning your role in the church and in grasping something of the original intend of the Church. 🙂

Ps. This website might be put on hold for awhile, while I continue working on my commentary on the Gospel of Mark. I hope you will read it! 🙂


Note: I realize that I copied quite some material above. This is not to infringe upon any copyright laws. The editor is free to contact me, if he wants me to lessen the amount of quotes. This would be a sad event, since I typed them all by hand 😛

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