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Making Church Simpler?

July 23, 2010

Judy Stark just sent me a link to an article in the Washington Post about the rise of “house churches.” Here’s an excerpt from the article:

In general, house churches consist of 12 to 15 people who share what’s going on in their lives, often turning to Scriptures for guidance. They rely on the Holy Spirit or spontaneity to lead the direction of their weekly gatherings.

The members of this “house church” are part of what experts say is a fundamental shift in the way U.S. Christians think about church. Skip the sermons, costly church buildings and large, faceless crowds, they say. House church is about relationships forged in small faith communities.

“I think part of the appeal for some in the house church movement is the desire to return to a simpler expression of church,” said Ed Stetzer, a seminary professor and president of Lifeway Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. “For many, church has become too much (like a) business while they just want to live like the Bible.”

To get to church on a recent Sunday morning, the Yeldell family walked no farther than their own living room to greet fellow worshippers.

I, for one, enjoy the pomp and circumstance of our traditional Episcopal Church services, but I can sympathize with those who might feel that simplifying things helps to focus on “the one thing” that Jesus spoke of in our Gospel reading from last Sunday. But I also feel that church can (and maybe even should) be an occassion for gathering with members of our community whom we wouldn’t mix with otherwise–such as the homeless, as well as those older or younger, richer or poorer, those with children, those without children, those from the other side of the tracks, and so forth. I can imagine that these home churches might run the risk of becoming awfully homogenous, and thereby missing the full beauty of the kingdom of heaven.

What do you all think? Please post a comment!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Betsy Adams permalink
    July 26, 2010 2:10 am

    I have been involved in a house church, but it was an enhancement to my regular Sunday worship, not the whole enchilada. There is something to be said for the intimacy of house church. It is a place where “everybody knows your name”. Sometimes it can difficult in a large church… you can get lost and no one notices that you’ve dropped out. Sometimes the house church setting allows the freedom to explore worship in new and less circumscribed ways.

    My worry about a house church as the whole “church” experience is that it can easily become a personality cult. So much can depend on the leadership and it can all fall apart if a leader leaves or if there is an argument within the group.

    I suppose that there is something to be said for all forms of worship; something to be learned, something to be experienced. We just keep on traveling The Way and see where He leads us. And that’s exciting in and of itself.

  2. jamiemcelroy permalink*
    July 27, 2010 12:20 am

    Thanks, Betsy, for your thoughtful comment. I think you’re right–there is something to be said for all forms of worship.

  3. Matt permalink
    July 27, 2010 7:32 pm

    I think that small Christian communities are a good mediator, allowing for small group study during the week. However, these communities do not replace regular community worship on Sundays.

    I \find the more interesting piece of this is the ‘why’ behind the formation of these churches. The article points to two reasons: (1) stronger and more defined community (2) stricter and literal interpretation of the Bible.

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