Deliberate Simplicity: How the Church Does More by Doing Less by Dave Browning is a worthy resource for those seeking how to plant, replant, or work within a current church situation. The book is very helpful and practical, but one must be cautious in applying everything Browning suggests, especially if its based solely on practice and not Scripture.
Deliberate Simplicity does a marvelous job at explaining how a church can be simple but still effective in its ministry. More often than not churches are tasked with the chore of making things available for its members to keep them busy as a smoke screen of holiness. Browning attacks this face on by showing how one can be effective while not sacrificing the holiness of the church.
Browning uses a simple formula: < = – X + ∞. This equation stands for “minimality”, “intentionality”, “reality”, “multility”, “velocity”, and “scalability”. With such vague terms, it could be easy to come up with one’s own understanding of Browning’s message. Fortunately, Browning does not leave the reader guessing. Browning in each chapter explains what these words mean on how the church functions and what it means or the churches who want to apply these terms for one’s own ministry.
One must remember, that even though Browning simplifies how church should be run, in reality church is not this simple. There are many things that go into the church’s daily mission, but this does give a good foundation and structure to begin with. The caution one must take in applying Browning’s method lies in the fact that practically this may work for Browning, but it might not be practical for every church. Growth comes in two forms, numerical and spiritual. This model seems to have worked for Browning in regards to the church’s numerical growth, but different cultures might have different responses to this formula.
One thing I wished Browning gave more attention to is the Bible itself. He has a lot of practical helps in this book, but I feel as if he could have used the Scriptures more to justify his points. Don’t get me wrong, he uses the Bible, but I would liked to have seen more, especially in the early chapters of the book. This is my main gripe with the book.
Browning’s work is great. He is a great writer. He has great stories. He has led his church well. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he has said because it doesn’t fit within my church context as being able to be done. He is still worth considering though. As noted above, if you are looking at planting a church, replanting a church, or making some changes within your own ministry model, Deliberate Simplicity is a book to read through, chew on for a bit, and apply what you feel as necessary. As another model of doing church, Browning might be able to help you and get you going in the right direction.