The Coming House Church Revolution
|If anyone had suggested to me ten or fifteen
years ago that home schooling would be anything like as popular as
it is, I would have responded with laughter. I would have said, "You
are nuts. I was home schooled as a missionary's kid. I know how home
schooled kids turn out!" ;-)
However unlikely it may have seemed at the time, home schooling has become normal. It seems every city has home schooling networks. Public schools routinely make accommodations for home schoolers to participate in things like choir and sports. Home schooling has become normal. It hasn't replaced public schools or Christian schools, but it has become a normal part of life.
George Barna is predicting that in the next 20 years house churches will become normal. He predicts a revolution is underway. A revolution of spiritually-minded, authentic Christians, dedicated Christ-followers, Bible-believing saints who will have little or nothing to do with traditional church. They will choose to do church at home. Here are the numbers. (Barna, Revolution, page 49)
In the year 2000, 70% of Americans called a local church home. They may or may not go every week, but they can identify with a local church. They go there on Easter and Christmas and for funerals and weddings. They may or may not know the pastor's name, but they still called old First Church, "My church." Only 5% of Americans identified with an alternative faith based community. This could be a number of things, but the most common expression is a house church. In the year 2525, if man is still alive--oh, no, my mind started drifting to an old song--in the year 2025 half of churched Americans will be involved in a house church. And, here is the kicker--it will be the good half. That is, nominal, half-hearted, church-on-Sunday Christians will still be connected to a local church. Many of the most dedicated Christians will be involved in a house church.
(You see a similar dynamic with home schooling. The dead-beat parents don't home school. It is not to say that all good parents home school--I'd like to think of myself as a good parent and my kids are in public school. But, all of the parents who do home schooling are dedicated parents.)
Another surprising twist in my reading (not from Barna, although, sadly, I can't recall where I read this) is that many of those who are involved in house churches, also attend church on Sunday morning at a local church. They do church on Sunday morning at a local church and they do church on Sunday night, or Friday night or some time in their home. But, their primary loyalty is to the house church. They recognize there are some things that a local church can do better--like worship and youth groups. But, there are many things a house church can do just as well--like teaching and fellowship. So, they do both. From the viewpoint of the church staff, they likely see them as nominal church goers because they are not that involved. And it is true; they are just involved in church in another way.
Here is another twist. I was listening to a Rob Bell sermon the other day. (http://www.mhbcmi.org) In the sermon, he casually mentioned their home groups, but the phrase he used jarred me: "When you attend your house church this week, you might discuss. . .") He apparently sees a symbiotic relationship between the local church and the house church. If anyone knows any more about that, please tell us all on the blog at http://joshhunt.blogs.com/blog/
This corresponds with what God is doing in many places around the world. I am reading Jerry Rankin's new book, To the Ends of the Earth. (Available from www.imb.org) It is both encouraging and convicting. Encouraging because missions has never been going better--mostly because of a house church movement all around the world called Church Planting Movements. (See also www.churchplantingmovements.com) Convicting because there is still so much to do and still so many who have never heard of Jesus.)
I am also reading Neil Cole's new book on The Organic Church. In it, Cole tells the story of Church Multiplication Associate's progress in launching a church planting movement here in America. See http://www.cmaresources.org/ Here is the progress so far: (Page 26)
Note again, these are house churches. There is no way you could start that many traditional, building-based, professionally led churches that fast. But, you can multiply house churches very quickly. One other twist: those in this movement are not married to the idea of always being house churches, and, in-fact, don't even prefer the name house-church. They prefer to be called simple churches. Their deal is this. They don't think a church has to meet in a home to be cool. Many of these simple churches may grow to the point they need a building. But, their point is, they don't have to have a building. Start 'em small; see what happens.
The thing that excites me about this movement is just at this point. I have written in other places about the idea that I think the Sunday School model is a good one, and I think it will be around for a long time. (Again, the home schooling trend is instructive--home schoolers didn't shut down public schools or Christian schools--they just provided another alternative.) I prefer Sunday School, and think it will be around for a long time. I get a little miffed with people who imply that Sunday School is passť. What gets me excited about this movement is that multiplication (doubling) is built into the DNA. Here is yet another example of the incredible power of doubling groups.
What is your opinion? Is it a good thing? Do you think Barna is right? Why do you think many are flocking to house churches? Have you had experience with house churches? Do you think this trend will hurt local churches? Do you think it will hurt or help the kingdom? What are the theological implications as far as who can baptize, marry, bury, serve the Lord's supper? What about accountability? Might this get out of control? Is that a good thing? Are tightly controlled systems less apt to go bad than a loosely controlled system? Log your opinion online at http://joshhunt.blogs.com/blog/
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