We must return to the dynamism of the living church ministries, which was a ‘go’ church. It didn’t bring people to church but took the church to the people. That’s why we need a completely new house- and cell-church movement, which plants tens of thousands of ‘go’ churches in as many houses and neighborhoods as possible.”- Dr. Jack Dennison, CitiReach
CHRISTIANS, GO HOME!
A growing number of American Christians – Catholics and Evangelicals alike – are talking about the down-sizing of the established Church as we know it. The rise of House Churches, Simple Churches, Organic Churches, Cell Churches, Open Churches and Church-planting Movements indicate the growing level of discontent with Church-As-Usual. This is true among Church leaders as well as the Christian populace. As one Blogger wrote: “The era of spectator Christianity is now ending because the urgency of our present cultural crisis in America and abroad simply won’t permit it!”
While Christianity seems to be flourishing in Africa, Asia and Latin America, many believe it is dying in the U.S. and is wheezing on its deathbed in Europe and Canada. As America enters what many refer to as the “Post Christian Era” (I prefer the phrase Post Edifice Era), with Islam on the rise and the level of sin in our culture soaring out of control, an alarm seems to be going off deep within the hearts of many followers of Christ.
As was already mentioned, House Churches are NOT exclusively an Evangelical notion. Not only is House Church extremely common among Catholics in China as well as Cuba, but small groups are alive and well in the American Catholic Church, too. House Churches ARE within the tradition of Catholicism and a recent study identified 37,000 small faith communities, and some estimates place the number at 45,000 to 50,000. Like the rest of us, the Roman Catholic Church appears to have recognized the need for laity leadership and a more intimate level of fellowship as a stop-gap to rapidly decreasing numbers in their own ranks. In 1988, Father Art Baranowski published Creating Small Faith Communities: A Plan for Restructuring the Parish and Renewing Catholic Life. His book was a blueprint for establishing small church communities of faith and prayer. (SOURCE: U.S. Catholic, Jan 2002 (Vol 67, No 1). Pages 18-23).
We’ve all seen and heard the reports of the rise and success of America’s Home Schooling movement. The victory of a homeschooled 13-year-old girl in the National Spelling Bee in May of ’97 called attention to the growing popularity and success of homeschooling. Today, estimates of the number of homeschooled children vary greatly with some estimating that there may be as many as 1.23 million kids homeschooled in the United States alone!
The homeschool movement helped the Church to take a quantum leap, restoring the proper role of Christian parents as the primary educators in the Kingdom of God. As it is in the Physical realm, so it is in the Spiritual realm. Covenant, Relationship and Accountability not only serve as cornerstones of healthy American homeschooling families, but are that upon which the House Church movement is being built as well. God appears to be restoring the proper role of the ekklesia – the “Called Out Ones” – as the primary reproducers of His Kingdom, taking it away from the institutionalized church. This is the only conceivable explanation as to why Christian homes are now the place where observable, sustainable Church growth is currently occurring; they are in synch with God’s desire to grow His Kingdom horizontally rather than vertically.
Regarding the ever-increasing size of the House Church movement, James Rutz, Author of Megashift and The Open Church, reports that it is “…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.”
“This is the new, coming Church – it’s what you will probably be in in the future.”- James Rutz, Author
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO BARNA
Something is happening all around us that is forever changing the landscape of the American Church as we know it. Christians are dipping their toes in the waters of change and more and more are diving in, joyfully splashing about like children. Though this movement is still in its infancy, this giant baby is getting too big to be ignored.
Where do those who identify themselves as American Christians currently go to experience their religious faith traditions? According to the Barna Group, a polling firm that focuses on religious faith in the U.S., their 2006 report reflected some eye-opening results.