The opinions of several Grace Brethren pastors on the subject of “house churches” are quoted in this article from the Dayton (OH) Daily News, written this past week by Brian Orme of the pastoral staff of the West Milton church.
‘Revolutionaries’ find refuge in home churches
By Brian Orme
There’s a new movement, a shift in the landscape of the church, says George Barna, the director of the Ventura, Calif.-based Barna Research Group. In Barna’s studies one thing seems clear: In today’s culture many people are leaving the traditional church to practice their faith in alternative venues.
Barna describes these sans-church members as revolutionaries — people discontented with the often static spiritual environment of conventional churches. These revolutionaries, some 20 million according to Barna, often end up in progressive ministries such as house churches, emerging communities, virtual faith networks and other niche ministries outside the traditional church setting.
“There are a lot of different kinds of needs that people have that simply are not, and cannot, be met through a conventional church setting,” Barna said.
When asked if the conventional church has dropped the ball on discipleship and evangelism, Barna said, “We’ve been studying that for so many years, the answer is an unequivocal yes. The ball has been dropped and stomped on. … It’s not because people don’t care, but so many of the models that get used are antiquated, they were created for a different era. We live in a different day and age.”
Barna doesn’t see the new trend as a threat to the church, but rather, a new era — one with powerful potential to connect more people with the mission of Christ.
A house church leader from Troy, Mike Lyons, says, “Small community groups are the most natural means to study and proclaim that the kingdom of God is here.” Lyons left a staff position at a megachurch to pursue simple, organic church planting. If you want to know what house church is like, “think less church and more BBQ,” Lyons says.
Lyons believes that the context of house church, although messy, teaches people more about what it means to be a spiritual family than the typical church, which avoids the messiness of relationships altogether.
Alternatives such as house churches don’t sit well with many church leaders.
The idea of a church without a building, without a set order or, perhaps, without educated teachers and pastors, doesn’t sit well with many church leaders.
“I think Barna is way off,” says Steve Makofka, pastor of Centerville Grace Brethren Church. “I believe the church’s mission is to do discipleship from the cradle to the grave. … My contention is that a network of small groups centered around a larger congregational entity can cover that entire grid far better than any single house church.”
“A church is made up of those committed to being a church. It is more than a Bible study or a discussion group,” says Tim Nixon, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Springboro. Nixon adds, “A church must have leadership and organization.”
Barna believes that the strict adherence to tradition and lack of change is what keeps the conventional church from growing. “Any institution that doesn’t keep up with the times is going to lose their audience.”
“For a lot of revolutionaries, the church has been an obstacle to spiritual growth. A lot of revolutionaries find that even though the conventional church may be a great ministry, it may not be right for them,” Barna says.
Barna’s research points to a dethroning of the traditional church as lodestar for the faith community in the upcoming years, and its replacement: grass-roots communities on mission from the inside out rather than the outside in.
“Jesus railed against the Pharisees and Sadducees because they developed so many routines and expectations that really had nothing to do with the heart of God,” Barna says. “And yet, in many ways that’s what we’re doing today.”
Brian Orme is an associate pastor at Community Church in West Milton and a freelance religion writer. Send e-mail to email@example.com.