o meet the challenge of sharing the gospel message in a state where 86 percent of the population does not attend a typical church on a given weekend, the Florida Conference executive committee recently approved collaboration with LIFE Training Institute on a lay-led church-planting network called Simple Church. LIFE is an Orlando-based lay training program owned by ASI.
Instead of meeting in elaborate church buildings, attendees of Simple Church—designated a company under the umbrella of the Florida Conference church—gather in home-based environments. This is reminiscent of the apostle Paul, who often sent greetings to house churches in his letters, such as Philemon 1, 2: “To Philemon, our dear friend and worker with us; to Apphia, our sister; to Archippus, a worker with us; and to the church that meets in your home” (NCV;* see also 1 Cor. 16:19). For the first 200 years following the death of Christ, New Testament house churches were the catalyst that birthed larger congregations.
Organizing the Structure
The organizational structure of Simple Church, termed the CORE4, allows for two coleaders, one host coordinator, and one detail coordinator. The nucleus of Florida Conference’s Simple Churches comprises three CORE4 church-planting teams that are transferring their membership to Simple Church and becoming missionaries to the unchurched in their community.
Simple Church members say they are no longer content to just “attend a church”; they want to rediscover how to “be the church.”
The initial group of Simple Church planters gathers in the home of Milton and Brenda Adams. “Simple Church planters learn how to think and act like missionaries,” says Milton, evangelism director for LIFE. “When individuals become missionaries, they usually fly to a distant country, learn a new language, wear cultural clothes, see their family less often, eat new food, and learn a new culture, value system, and worldview. Simple Church missionaries do the same right here in North America.”
Transferring to Simple Church is to become a part of a church-planting team in which people make a commitment to simplify and reprioritize their lives so they have more time to spend with unchurched people. An annual commitment includes sharing one personal Bible study each week, coordinating and participating in two evangelistic series each year, attending monthly CORE4 leadership meetings, and involvement in planting a new Simple Church with the goal of raising up and multiplying more Simple Churches.
The Yates family, with the blessing and support of their Altamonte Springs church members and leaders, stepped out in faith as they teamed up with the Adamses. Darren was an elder and Lori was treasurer in their congregation when they accepted God’s invitation to become Simple Church modern-day missionaries.
The second CORE4 team consists of Anton Martin, Allen and Laura Poblete, and Anton and Alicia Fox of the Forest Lake Adventist Church in Apopka. Members of the Carrollwood Adventist Church in Tampa, Florida—Rich (church elder) and Jen (small group leader) Christman, Ethan Bird (elder and worship leader), and Tammy Asgeirsson (worship leader)—comprise the third CORE4 team.
“Yes, it is hard to see them go,” says Carrollwood pastor Rodlie Ortiz, “but ‘going’ is what Adventist churches are to be doing. ‘Going’ is the heart of the gospel commission.”
All CORE4 teams are opening their homes for Simple Church Sabbath gatherings. Additional teams are in the process of building their CORE4 and completing online training.
Simple Church Mission Focus
Milton Adams clarifies that Simple Church Sabbath gatherings are not “holy huddle practice sessions. They are the real thing,” he says. Weekly attendance at the Adamses’ home church averages 29 as people seek to cultivate a deeper walk with God. On a given Sabbath, 33 percent of the people attending are unchurched.
Those in attendance say they find Simple Church to be a warm and inviting place where prayer and worship are experienced, friendships are made, meals are shared, baptisms are celebrated, and experiencing God’s Word is absolute. Simple Church also provides an atmosphere of caring and nurturing to people who have never walked through the doors of a sanctuary, a place where their needs and burdens are shared and cared for by one another.
“I believe the direction Milton Adams is taking is a very sound approach,” says Florida Conference president Mike Cauley. “Simple Church is faithful to the mission and values of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and, in many ways, more accurately reflects the heart of early Adventists and New Testament Christians. I wholeheartedly support this biblical approach to ministry and mission. We appreciate the opportunity to cooperate with ASI in this evangelistic method.”
*Scriptures credited to NCV are quoted from The Holy Bible, New Century Version, copyright ” 1987, 1988, 1991 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.