Clearing the Clutter: An Honest Conversation with a Church in Process


By Krista Petty

What’s it like to be in the middle of the Simple Church process? Matt Bortmess, senior associate minister at Rochester (Illinois) Christian Church, is reading and discussing Simple Church with staff and leaders. They are halfway through the book and already seeing that the tough work is not reading the book, but applying its principles and taking action.



What is it like being in the Simple Church process?

Matt: We are learning we have more focus now than five years ago. However, the focus has not been clearly refined or defined. We have a couple different phrases we throw around (“Love God, love people”; “One hour of worship, one hour of study, one hour of service”), but I’m not sure our people could clearly articulate what our focus is.

What might be in store for Rochester as you begin to focus?

Matt: I’m anticipating there will be much clutter we will have to sort through. I think of it as the TV show Clean Sweep, where they help the household get organized. We’ll empty the “house” and make three piles: stuff to keep, stuff that is good but we don’t really need, and stuff that is just plain junk and we need to get rid of it! I know it will be hard to part with some things but it will be necessary if we’re going to refine our focus.

The “calling” of Simple Church is for churches to clarify and align a discipleship process. What might that look like at Rochester?

Matt: Well, we don’t currently have a spelled-out process. The closest we come to one is “One hour of worship, one hour of study, and one hour of service.” The problem is that we don’t have a process in place to help people accomplish those three things. They just figure it out on their own right now. At the same time, we offer lots of activities that don’t fall into those three areas, thus creating a lot of confusion. We do have weekly worship, Sunday school, elective studies, small groups, mission trips, and ministry teams.

How receptive have your leaders been to Simple Church?


Matt: Very receptive! I think we are hungry and ready for a clearer process. When the rubber meets the road, though, I think the hardest part for us will be the “movement” factor that is talked about in the book. We are halfway through the book and we see the reality of what we have in place right now and recognize the need for change and improvement.


Do you have any advice for others who might be trying to apply some of the Simple Church principles?

Matt: Don’t be afraid to make changes. Change is good. Change is hard, but the benefits will far outweigh the difficulties. It’s what we’re called to do—make disciples . . . fully developed disciples. How rewarding it will be to see a clear and simple process in place to help that happen!


Krista Petty serves as senior adviser for Backyard Impact (, a leader in community involvement strategies and equipping principles for the church. She resides in North Carolina and is an active member of Concord Christian Church—also striving for simplicity!

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