Monday, April 09, 2007
The best news since year one?
I've just finished reading Megashift, by James Rutz. An enjoyable book to read, if you can get past the the hype.
The book is all about the new (as opposed to the historical) house church movement, which is picking up speed all across Western world. The book starts by looking at the examples of house churches in primarily non-Western countries, noting countless miracles and healings that occur in their midst. The book is worth it simply for this first chapter alone.
Jim is convinced that traditional (and by that I think he includes most of contemporary) Christianity is going downhill, fast. He sees cities full of small house churches, interconnected by relationship. These holy-spirit filled house churches would meet up city-wide, say once a month, for encouragement, corporate worship and apostolic input.
I think Jim is partly right. I do see this coming to the Western world. In the United States, its now a fact according to Barna that there are more Christians out of church (unchurched/dechurched) than there are in church. Barna reckons that 100 million US Christians are currently not tied to a local church. Lets face it folks, church as we know it is not cutting it! I don't know the statistics for the UK, but I've often estimated that around 50% of Christians are unchurched, dechurched, or floating aimlessly between churches.
Why is this? I think there are two, probably related reasons.
1) Cultural connection: traditional and contemporary churches often seem to be locked into various layers of culture which increasingly push people away from the church. The main cultural issue for the church to address currently is the broad shift from modernity to post-modernity.
2) Somewhat related to the first point, there is a move across the church worldwide (even in cultures that are not experiencing post-modernity) to practise church with what can only be described as an organic Hebrew methodology, as opposed to the prevalent Roman/Greek methodology that the traditional and even contemporary churches identify with.
3) Further points, perhaps related to the above two points, would also includes movements such as post-evangelical, post-charismatic, post-protestant and for some it seems, post-Christian.
So when you chuck all this into the melting pot, what comes out? The answer is of course, the emerging church.
Going back to Jim, I do believe that one expression of the church of tomorrow will be the emerging house churches. However, as others have said, I also think that the Megachurch model, in second and first-world countries at least, is here to stay. Despite all the predictions to the contrary, Megachurches continue to grow and prosper, even with younger post-moderns members (originally it was said Megachurches would only appear to the Baby-Boomer generation i.e. Willow Creek). For example, Mars Hill Church, Seattle, started off as post-modern post-evangelical post-charismatic bible study. Its now has over 6000 members and shows no sign of stopping its constant 60% growth. Meanwhile, over here in the UK, we think 6% church growth is a practically a Holy-Spirit fuelled revival! Other churches have no growth to speak off and continually make up reasons why this is a good thing. "Its not all about numbers", people continually chant in some sort of weird mantra. "A perfect community has less than 100 people" is one I've heard a few times as well. Last time I checked, each "number" was an individual soul (person), loved by the Lord Jesus, who earnestly desires his or her salvation. Is there a verse in the bible that says "And the Lord said thus: It is not about numbers". If anything, it is about numbers, if the book of Numbers teaches us anything :-) Even the Yellow Pages folks realise that.
So Jim, I love the book, but I think we need to make room for other expressions of the body of Christ. I anticipate many house churches starting up in my local scene over the next 10 years. No sign of a mega-church yet, though :-)
This post has brought up a bunch of other thoughts in my mind, so if I get time I will blog some more on all of this. Especially on this meme going around that preaching no longer works (only if you suck at it, according to Mark Driscoll!).