book review: deliberate simplicity

Written by Jesse Giglio

Jesse Giglio loves stories, at least good stories but then again thatʻs why we have bad ones…so we can tell. He thinks life is meaningful. Sometimes the way we live it is not. He’s a teaching pastor and mission architect in Southern California. But prefers activist and raconteur. His church isnʻt too big and isnʻt too small but itʻs not just right either. Itʻs probably a lot like yours.

April 29, 2010

Deliberate Simplicity is about being committed to the core expressions of the church and nothing else.  Dropping pretense, program and sometimes even pixels to maintain a purity in the mission of the Jesus.  Dave Browning is the pastor of Christ The King church, a community relentlessly focused on three things; Small Groups, Worship and Outreach.

All that stuff I love. The book?  Not so much.

The book pushes this idea of a “Deliberately Simple” church hard, too hard.  It felt more infomercial than inspiration.  And in the end an ill fated attempt at creating a new kind of church brand.  The heart was lost in the tone (or maybe the small font, was it just me?)

Deliberate Simplicity opens with the telling of a story of a perfect utopian faith community.   A church that has it all.  Which church would this be?  The author’s of course.  It’s tough to get into a story that leads like that.

DS oversold itself.

A few lines that drove the book for me…

(On the use of overhead projectors.) “We’re not trying to dazzle people with Pixels.” Not Shane Hipps fans I take it.

“This is not to say that Deliberately Simple church is the only church interested in reaching out to a lost world. But…”

“I have people tell me, ‘Dave I don’t go to church, but if I ever did, I would check out Christ The King.'”

“CTK was shaping up differently than any church church I’d seen before. I was moaning in my office about how I didn’t have a mentor to show me the way.”

CTK is “different than any church you’ve ever seen before”.

Felt too self promoted.  DS also seemed to keep us at a distance from the author, leaving us with charts, church stories and lots of quotes from other people.

Sounds like God’s doing some cool stuff at CTK but as a reader/leader it didn’t work for me.

Begs the question though, do we always need to try and brand the great things God is doing and attempt to sell them?  Can commercialization of even good stuff be harmful?


  1. Billy Coffey

    Seems like a good idea, but it does sound as though the execution was a bit off. And my answer to that last question is that yes, commercialization of even good stuff can be harmful.

  2. @bibledude

    Commercialization of anything in the church has always gotten kick-back. Even if the program that is being developed is completely led by the Holy Spirit, that doesn't mean that it is meant for everyone. So, I'm with both of you guys (Billy and Jesse) that commercialization of even good stuff can be harmful.

    I'm also pretty sensitive to the issue that Jesse pointed out here about overly patting oneself on the back. A good pastor friend of mine told me once that if you talk about yourself, then you should talk more about your shortcomings than about how awesome you are.

  3. Dave Browning

    I can appreciate someone's fair critique, but Pastor's Giglio's review is little heavy on critique and a little light on fair. For example, here is the context for a couple of the quotes he uses in his review…

    1. “This is not to say that the Deliberately Simple church is the only church interested in reaching out to a lost world. But there are subtle differences between the 'traditional' and the 'deliberate' forms of outreach.” By Pastor Giglio stopping at the word “But…” he leaves the reader to suppose the worst.

    2. “A few years ago, when it began to be clear that CTK was shaping up differently than any church I'd ever seen before, I was moaning in my office about how I didn't have mentors to show me the way.” The statement was meant to describe how unequipped I was to deal with the story I was in, not to say that the story is better/more special than any other story. I'm not sure if this was accidental, but Pastor Giglio misquotes my statement – that CTK is “different than any church you’ve ever seen before.” (changes the statement from first person to second person) Though in quotation marks, that phrase does not occur in the book. I agree, that statement would sound arrogant. But I'm glad I did not make it.

    3. “I have had people tell me, 'Dave, I don’t go to church, but if I ever did, I would check out Christ the King.' These are people we will one day see at Christ the King. They have made a mental note, and so have we. We plan with them in mind.” The point of this statement is that we are trying to get ready for those who are about to come our way, and not just minister to those who are already here. When the statement is cropped after “I would attend Christ the King” it sounds like a boast. It is not.

    For those who may not read the book, only this review, I would like to recite my true feelings from the Preface: “While I am excited about this different approach to ministry, I hope to steer clear of elitism. Different does not necessarily mean better. While at times I may contrast the “Deliberately Simple” Church with the “Traditional” Church, Deliberate Simplicity is intended to be more descriptive, than proscriptive. God is at work in every church, and in every church tradition there are elements that work well for the people in those traditions. We all have to be faithful to what God is calling us to be and do. Our loyalty should be to the Master and the Mission, not the Method and the Manner. The fact that I have chosen to go a different direction is not an indictment of those who may be comfortable where they are. I mainly want you to know that this path is out there, and that you can take it if you’d like.”

    Dave Browning

  4. @bibledude

    I always appreciate it when the author of a book stops by to share his (or her) heart regarding what they've written. So the first thing that I want to do is thank you for checking this review out and clearing the air!

    I personally haven't read the book yet, but I can appreciate the concept. And after hearing you share, I can definitely appreciate your heart behind it too.

    Thanks for finding this and addressing some of the concerns that Giglio had! I'd love to connect more with you to discuss your ideas…


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book review: deliberate simplicity

by Jesse Giglio time to read: 2 min