Friday, April 20, 2007

The House Church Movement in America:

From: REVIVAL List [] Sent: Thursday, 6 July 2006 2:03 AM To: Subject: [revival] HOUSE CHURCHES- "2nd Largest Movement"


"Statistic: U.S. House Church Movement Bigger than 2nd Largest Denomination"
-by Jim Rutz, WorldNetDaily. The little guy is back. For the first time in 1,700 years, simple churches meeting in homes are once again a factor in human events. In many countries, they're booming so strongly that critics and opponents can no longer brush them aside as a fringe movement. And as I documented repeatedly in "Megashift," home churches are producing millions of proactive Christians who now and then perform miracles (though the credit ultimately belongs to God, of course). But this week, even I was shocked to discover how big our house church community in North America really is. Briefly stated, we're right about halfway between the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention (which is the second-largest denomination in the U.S.). OK now, let's inhale. I'm stunned, too. This really is starting to alter the landscape for all of us.

Let me state up front: These are solid numbers. George Barna, the leading U.S. church pollster and perhaps the most widely quoted Christian leader in America, is the author of the figures below. They are based on a full-on, four-month scientific survey of 5,013 adults, including 663 blacks, 631 Hispanics, 676 liberals and 1,608 conservatives. Nobody argues with numbers from The Barna Group. They employ all the professional safeguards to ensure tight results – in this case, a sampling error of +/-1.8 percent. Here are the results stated in five ways: In a typical week, 9 percent of U.S. adults attend a house church.

In absolute numbers, that 9 percent equals roughly 20 million people. In a typical month, about 43 million U.S. adults attend a house church. All told, 70 million U.S. adults have at least experimented with participation in a house church. Focusing only on those who attend some kind of church (which I recall is about 43 percent of us), 74 percent of them attend only a traditional church, 19 percent attend both a traditional and a house church, and 5 percent are hard-core house church folks. The study counted only attendance at house churches, not small groups ("cells") that are part of a traditional church.

Please don't think of the house church as a new fad. For the first 300 years of Christianity, house churches were the norm. In fact, church buildings were quite rare until the fourth century, when the power-hungry Roman Emperor Constantine suddenly outlawed house church meetings, began erecting church buildings with Roman tax money, and issued a decree that all should join his Catholic Church.

If you want to stick to a biblical model, the house church is your only choice. In China, the world's largest church (120 million) is 90 percent based in homes. The cover story in this week's World magazine (June 24) is on how Christian business leaders in China are beginning to change the whole situation in that country. Yes, even while Christians in many provinces are hunted down and tortured, CEOs of corporations in areas with freedom are changing the way government looks at Christianity. That is major. Bottom line: Worldwide, the original church is back, re-creating the biblical model: "Day after day, they met by common consent in the Temple Courts and broke bread from house to house." (Acts 2:46) God is again pouring out His power on plain folks, bringing a megashift – not in our doctrine, but in our entire lifestyle.

Editor's Note:

The Barna report linked to Jim Rutz's article says, "... of those who attend a house church, 27% attend on a weekly basis, 30% attend one to three times per month, and 43% attend less than once a month." It acknowledges, "The data in this report are based on interviews with 5013 adults from across the nation." ~SOURCE: © 2006


From: REVIVAL List [] Sent: Saturday, 5 August 2006 4:26 AM To: Subject: [revival] The MISSIONARIES' SHOCK See our website and discussion board- The MISSIONARIES' SHOCK: "Our analysis has concluded that Jesus is not the spiritual father of our Evangelical culture." "We discovered that... evangelicals have such a dominant consumer orientation to 'church' that they quickly default to a focus on their needs and their family's needs..." - MORE BELOW: SPREADING "CONSUMER CHRISTIANITY" AROUND the EARTH?

-Fran Patt. For the past 25 years I have ministered within church and mission in North America. I have served as a staff person of a church, as an elder, and (with my wife) as part of church planting teams. Most everything we have attempted for many years has been connected to recruiting, training and fielding the most effective missionaries possible. We were launched into a new phase of ministry about 15 years ago when we received a shocking letter from a close friend, whom we had helped to recruit, train and deploy to an Asian field among Muslims... our friend's letter said this about his team: - We come from large, upper-middle-class churches with multiple staff, large budgets, and large buildings. - None of us was ever involved in a church plant prior to coming to this Asian field. To be effective in the next phase of ministry, we will need to understand how to establish the Church in home-sized fellowships. - We have no experience or training that prepared us for this, and our home church culture is of no help. - Our primary mission here is to establish the Body of Christ in a way that will be culturally relevant and able to survive and thrive after we leave, but we are really not certain we know how to do this, given the limitations we have communicated.

Soon after we received this letter, we debriefed with a highly-trusted veteran missionary with over 35 years of service. His analysis included another shock to us: in his estimation, two-thirds of all the missionaries he had worked with (though, fortunately, not our friends in Asia) should have been sent home because they were ineffective and largely a detriment rather than a help. Part of his analysis was that these missionaries had very few ministry skills, no professional skills, and virtually no clue on how to work effectively with nationals. In the aftermath of this letter and debriefing we arrived at three conclusions... Specifically, [our] set of new training modules needed to be about what 'church' is and isn't, helping mission candidates and other Christian workers learn how to unpack or deconstruct their understanding of 'church.' Since virtually all the missionary candidates we had worked with were from churches that had never planted a church, there was no way to make church-planting a natural pre-field part of their learning experience unless we added it. So we embarked on what we expected would be a wild and intense learning experience. We worked with a church-planting team made up of some of our missionary candidates and other committed Christians.

The next few years brought some significant surprises, prompting us to change our entire ministry schematic, for again we found ourselves facing unexpected problems. The first issue is related to evangelical expectations of 'church'. We discovered that even when there are mutually agreed-upon outward goals for the 'church plant,' evangelicals have such a dominant consumer orientation to 'church' that they quickly default to a focus on their needs and their family's needs before the church does anything else. So, through three successive church plants, where the stated intentions were to focus on reaching the non- Christian community, all three were hijacked to meet the needs of the Christians involved, while very little was invested in reaching the non-believing community in the first two years of these plants.

The second issue is related to the first. It is all about spiritual DNA: who does the American evangelical look like? Does he or she resemble Jesus in his focus, values, and mission? Our analysis has concluded that Jesus is not the spiritual father of our Evangelical culture. Our Evangelical world is more about our peculiar cultural values and what we like and dislike rather than a reflection of Jesus. If we take a hard, objective look at the Gospels, we will see a great deal of similarity between our Evangelical values and the values of the Pharisees rather than the values of Jesus. The third issue is the logical outcome of the first two: we have a very bad case of culture blindness. I don't mean that we cannot distinguish cultural differences, but that we are blind to the differences between what we are as cultural Christians and what the Bible clearly articulates we should be. Our blindness will make it very easy for us to go from culture to culture in our world, planting churches that we think are representative of Paul's apostolic ministry in the New Testament, when in reality our church planting principles are a manifestation of our own culture and are not gospel to anyone but us.

Dealing With Problems at Their Root Fifteen years ago, when we responded to our missionary friend's letter from Asia, we had no idea where this process would lead us. As we began to address the problems, we naively believed the answer was better training. We had no idea that the process of following the leading of the Holy Spirit would take us to the very root of who we are as a Christian people. Let me be clear: the problem is not the institution of the church, but instead who we have become as American Evangelical Christians. Yes, another problem is that some churches foster or permit sub-biblical and un-Christlike behaviour, but our experience has been that most churches and church plants with the best of intentions will end up wrecked on the rocks of our self-cantered cultural expectations and inclinations. It is obvious that missiological problems of church and culture need to be addressed to adequately prepare men and women for cross- cultural service, but it seems even more important to address and correct the sources of these problems here in North America. We will never be free of the problems that cultural Christianity breeds unless we deal with these problems at their root. If we are content to maintain and promote a mission strategy that accepts the status quo in North American Christian culture, we can assume the strong likelihood of either failure or recidivism in our training of missionaries.

It is likely that North American Evangelicalism will need to reinvest or reinvent itself as a new people and a new culture for these problems to be completely eradicated. Until that glorious day, you will find us looking for a few teachable men and women willing to walk along side very fallible but increasingly wiser teachers as we invest our lives in bringing a supra-cultural Jesus to the nations. [-To read the complete article, see "What DNA Are we (Really) Reproducing?" by Fran Patt in the July-August 2006 'Mission Frontiers' Magazine - AN EXCELLENT MAGAZINE - website:].

Editors Note:

A response from my friend Associate Professor Bruce Judd BArch (Hons) on the above article:

'The housechurch certainly has its place and meets its needs, but I cannot be other than slightly concerned at the tone in the article that suggests that the home church model is the authentic mode of church and validated so because it is "bigger than".... something else. Is something good and right, because it was the 'original' form, or because it is "bigger than..."? I find this an interesting proposition, but problematic. Indeed the statistics are impressive, but I am particularly concerned about the statement "If you want to stick to a biblical model, the house church is your only choice”.

When any mode of gathering in the name of Jesus - including more conventional congregational church, or home groups, or whatever - is promoted as 'the way' then I believe we are at risk of replacing one imperfect vehicle of worship and fellowship with another. In other words focussing on a particular 'method' rather than the bigger picture - Christ himself and his creativity in how he works through the various manifestations of His Body. Watchman Nee puts this very directly in his wonderful little book “Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things". In reflecting on Jesus statement "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but be me" he states.

"I am the way," asserts the Lord Jesus. Christ is the way; Christ is the method. Dear friends, is Christ your way and is Christ your method? Or is it only a way and a method? Thank God, if Christ is our method, everything will be successful. But if ours is just a method -- and however good, accurate, and incomparable it may be -- it still is dead and has no spiritual value.

and later

Many times even the motive behind our hearing a message is erroneous. Instead of asking the Lord for revelation that we may see Him, we try with our brain to memorise a method to take back with us. And even if we follow that method, we will get nowhere. Sometimes, though, we seem to catch a glimpse, perhaps without having any great assurance to dare to say that we have seen the Lord. Nevertheless, we do see Him and such insight brings in real change. Thank the Lord, this is the way. Not that we have learned a method, but we have come to know the Lord. It is clearly shown to us that the Lord Himself is the method.

For this reason, then, we should, upon hearing a message or a testimony, examine ourselves as to whether we have encountered the Lord or merely understood a method. There is no deliverance in knowing a method as there is in knowing the Lord. Listening to how He helps others will not save us. Our trusting in the Lord alone is effectual. Their words may sound about the same, yet their actualities are worlds apart. The Lord is the Lord of life. Touching the Lord alone gives life.

I found this very challenging when I read it, as I like anyone else am prone to seeing what worked elsewhere and seeing if it can be applied in a different situation - with the same guaranteed results. We often see this promoted with visiting speakers from successful ministries elsewhere - eg the Bill Hybels/Willow Creek method of 'seeker services'. The Church Growth movement has been plagued with the kind of thinking that what works here, should work there - regardless of context, though it has moved a little from that stance recently.

Please don't misunderstand my intention in responding thus. I am a great enthusiast of the home group and its importance as a spiritual family and a place for spiritual growth, but I am concerned by some who promote it as 'the way' or 'the authentic form of church". I am a member of one myself and greatly blessed by it, but I also value other forms of gathering such as the Saturday (or Sunday) service, seminars, conferences, small groups of other types, etc etc. I am sure it is the same for you and for Keith.

Home church was the original early New Testament form of church, but are we to be limited to that mode today - or is God allowed to change things as time, society and the church proceeds? I think so. And I think he has changed much.

Recent reading of Frank Viola's book ‘Rethinking the Wineskin’. In this book he puts a convincing case for what the early Christian church was - basically home churches, no preaching, just sharing, no hierarchy just local elders and itinerant evangelists and pastors, everyone involved in making all decisions. But the flaw in his book, in my humble view, is that he argues that we should return to precisely this model today as if nothing has changed in the meantime – eg. the Reformation, the Wesleyan movement, Asuza Stree, the charismatic movement, third wave, Toronto, Prayer movement etc - let alone the impact of communication technology - including the internet (which you guys use so effectively).

So, while I'm all for the home group as a useful vehicle of worship, ministry and fellowship, I am careful about regarding it as 'the model' - along with any other form. God is a creative God, who loves variety - including in manifestations of his church.'