Archive for the ‘simple church’ Category

case study of two videos

Watch these videos and take a look at the questions at the bottom.

What was your immediate reaction to seeing each of these short films? Which of these videos impacts you more strongly? Why?


this is the day

601229_84040116.jpgGeorge Barna has just released a new study on the surge on house churches in America — including the level of satisfaction among adherents, who are the participants, the nature of their gatherings, and their relationship to the church at large — which you can read here. This is becoming a movement, it seems, that the Christian world at large can no longer ignore. Quietly, many people seem to be finding their deepest levels of intimacy with God and neighbor occurring in these simple communities. This has certainly been our experience.

Here are a few good house church links off the top of my melon:

“House Churches Have No Sex Appeal,” by Andrew Jones (TallSkinnyKiwi)

House Church Blog

House Church Chronicles

House 2 House Magazine

There are others listed on the links page.

With temperatures in the East soaring above average highs for most of the winter, there’s a common conversation I keep hearing around Boston:

“How ’bout this weather? Amazing, huh?”

“Yeah, but just wait. Winter’s coming.”

It’s probably just years of experience with New England winters talking, but I think there’s a little bit of human nature in there as well. You know, the tendency to look past today’s fortune or beauty to tomorrow’s impending misfortune. We all fall into this trap … even (maybe especially) Christians.

In God’s world, though, we really only have today. That doesn’t mean we don’t plan for the future at all, and yet to some extent, it does mean that we don’t worry about tomorrow. So whether El Niño has caused tulips to grow in the dead of winter, or whether today is rainy / snowy / sleety / scorchy … join me in taking to heart Psalm 118:24:

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”


organic church in alabama

From the August 4 Birmingham News:

Cullman’s organic church

New kind of ministry strips worship of modern trappings to find its elemental roots

News staff writer

CULLMAN — Breads and coffees aren’t the only organic offerings at Berkeley Bob’s Coffee House these days.

Food for the soul is dished out Thursday nights at Organic Church, a new Christian ministry meeting inside the 1960s California-style coffee house in downtown Cullman.

Like many church groups, worshipers at Organic Church read and discuss Scripture, pray, and sing. Sometimes they read spiritual poetry or entries they’ve made in journals.

But what the church doesn’t have are committees, a staff, buildings, membership or a collection plate.

“We started off with trying to be the church without the additives of modern church,” said Jason Elam, a minister and founder of Organic Church. “This is our attempt to strip back all the things that were added to the church.”

Elam considers Organic Church part of the house church movement, a term that describes a move back to the way early Christians as described in the book of Acts in the Bible met in small groups in houses.

A recent study, based on interviews of 5,000 adults around the United States, by the George Barna Group says that 9 percent of adults attend a house church during a typical week. While still small, it represents a big increase from 1 percent a decade ago.

Elam said he began considering forming a small group ministry during a couple of events in his life. First was the birth of his daughter, Emily, in 2004. She had birth defects that had to be corrected with multiple surgeries, he said. Soon after the final surgery last year, his wife, Csilla, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, he said.

Throughout the time of his daughter and wife’s health problems, Elam said their church family at The Father’s House in Vinemont helped them through the crisis. He said he came to believe there are many who love God who haven’t been able to find that kind of intimate relationship in a traditional church setting.

‘Experiment in faith’

“We wanted to try and provide that,” he said.

Elam is testing the idea of whether a church can succeed without anticipating going to a church building and paid staff. “This is an experiment in faith,” he said.

Instead of a house to meet in, Elam found the coffee house to rent for a minimal fee that Elam pays.

Walls are painted with peace symbols, flowers, “make coffee not war,” and a large purple Volkswagen bug with a yellow heart. A small stage sits in a corner where folk singers belt out ballads in concerts and novices sing, read their poems, and tell stories on open-mike nights. Worshippers sit on cushioned chairs or around tables with tie-dyed tablecloths.

“I thought this place was so cool – the environment would compensate for my uncoolness,” Elam said.

Services began the first of May and are held Thursdays at 7 p.m. with anywhere from a half dozen to 25 people showing up. Elam doesn’t preach but rather moderates discussions among worshippers about Scripture. Often a person who attends will bring up Scripture they want to discuss.

Those who attend believe Jesus is the Son of God, died for our sins and was resurrected, Elam said. Other than that core belief, Organic Church has no doctrines, rituals, no connections to a national organization, and no preferred Bible translation.

“I believe the church to be an organism, not an organization,” said Jonathan Graves, of Hanceville, who first found out about Organic Church through an advertisement in a shopper’s guide.

Graves said he likes the family togetherness displayed during the sessions. “Openness and sharing is what Jesus teaches we should have,” he said.

Most, like Graves, also attend church on Sundays at their own denominations.

One minister from a local Baptist church also is among those who often attend. Diversity of the local churches – both Southern Baptists and Catholics have deep roots in Cullman – makes it ideal for what they’re trying to do, Elam said.

“We’ve got every church on the Christian buffet here in Cullman,” he said.

Joshua and Beth Haynes, of Fairview, attend a Southern Baptist church, but said they come sporadically to Organic Church.

One recent Thursday night the discussion evolved into how ritualism can sometimes replace developing deep spiritual relationships in churches .

“It doesn’t mean these things are wrong – it’s just these things can be empty,” Joshua Haynes said.


a couple things…

First, here’s the link to a Christian Chronicle story that profiles the simple/organic/house church movement in Churches of Christ. Chrissy and I were interviewed by the author.

Second, I had a great “emergent cohort” meeting with several new friends who are modeling kingdom life in Beverly, Mass., which is about an hour north of the city. They call themselves “Sinners and Saints,” and the community worships, plays, works, studies, prays, and — in one case — lives together. We met at a Boston establishment known for its…um…burgers to talk theology, life, whatever. I was refreshed by the rawness of these men — their propensity to ask tough, even “taboo” questions about God, their rejection of simplistic answers. It’s nice to be around guys who are unabashedly verbalizing the questions that come to mind and bringing them to the community. It was pure fun. I think I’ll do it again.

“come back to the kitchen”

I found this quote on a March 23 post from Tall Skinny Kiwi. It reminds me of what I said on this post a while back, except more concise.

The church began with a meal. The Church needs to come back to the kitchen and get itself sorted again. The Church needs to rethink the puny wafer and thimble ritual and get back to the love feast which is a MEAL that takes TIME and happens MORE than once a week and has LEFTOVERS which can given to the POOR (the justice element) and resembles a PARTY that is full of HOPE towards the FEAST that awaits us with our SAVIOR who is not drinking wine until we get there to toast with Him. Jesus said DO THIS in remembrance of me. We would do well to ask “[DO] WHAT?”

we’re back in texas…

…but we don’t have to be happy about it.

While it’s great to be back with family and closer to friends, we left a little bit of our hearts in Boston this week. We love the cultural activities, the people, the food, the tight-knit community, and, yes, even the weather (hey, after years of 90 degree winters in Abilene, 30s and 40s are a breath of fresh air). Take a second to read this interesting essay from a lifelong Bostonian for several more reasons why Boston is a wonderful place to live.

But the most exciting part of our future move to Beantown doesn’t have anything to do with the cultural or geographical or meteorological characteristics of Boston. We are thrilled and honored to be joining a “movement already in progress” in one of America’s oldest cities and the birthplace of American Christianity. God is at work in Boston. Ralph Kee, director of the Greater Boston Church Planting Collaborative, told us Thursday that in the first six months of 2006, around 20 new church plants will launch in Boston. God is at work in the group of students and young professionals who started meeting to pray about and discuss the connection between their faith and justice for the oppressed and marginalized. He’s at work in the Sinners and Saints house church community north of the city in Beverly, MA, with whom we ate and worshiped on Thursday night.

Logistically, Chrissy got confirmation from her adviser that she will be able to graduate with her MBA from Suffolk in August 2007 and we have narrowed in on a neighborhood in which to live for at least the first year in Boston. We spent time with another couple and several individuals with whom we have a special relational connection. In short, God continues to pave our pathway to Boston. This past week revealed a lot to us, most of all confirming that we are being called to join God in his redemptive work in Boston.

Thanks to those of you who prayed for us this week, and we continue to petition you for your prayers as we finish up our Abilene chapter and prepare for live in the big city. In the coming weeks, I will continue to reflect deeper on lessons learned this week that relate to our ministry. For now, it’s time to rest and cope with our Texas re-entry culture shock.

Click here to see photos from our week.
the fam at fenway

leaving, etc.

Well, we’re heading to Austin tomorrow, and then on to Boston on Saturday morning. We’ll be in Boston (with my folks and brother) through the following Saturday. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’ll be doing further scouting of the city, a little touristy stuff, meeting with similar-minded folks, and walking in confidence that God is going to continue to unveil his plans for us even further. I hope to provide updates — if not every evening, at least three times — this coming week. Please, please, please pray that God’s will would be done in, through, and around us in Boston this next week.

Anyone with their eyes open can see that something is afoot around the world. God, like Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, is “on the move.” Clearly the “missio Dei” is exploding in areas like China, India, and Africa, but let’s not forget about what God is doing in North America. Consider the following report, which I received in an e-mail from Joel News:

The ‘organic’ leadership solution

In North America there is a growing movement of simple churches, home-based small groups focused on Jesus and doing what He says. House church coach John White shared about what he calls ‘the Luke 10:2b leadership solution’ – a daily prayer for laborers in the harvest. Since he started praying this, and teaching this organic principle to other believers, God sent people on his way, one after the other, asking advice on how to plant churches, and he could simply coach them in doing that. In this way, the simple church networks in the United States are growing exponentially. While 530 simple churches were planned for 2005, they planted over 6,000. While they intended to train 530 church planters in 2005, they saw 1,000 church planters trained in the first two months of 2006 alone. With this kind exponential growth (the current growth rate is 70%) they might reach their target of 4 million simple churches in North America (in 400,000 networks, and with 40,000 network coaches, and 4,000 lead coaches) by the year 2018.



Related Update: Did anyone see this article in Time this past week about house churches in the United States?  There are even “house synagogues” (seriously…) — read about it here.  OK, we’re heading to Austin in a few hours (to hopefully eat some Kirby Lane cheese dip tonight), and then onto Boston tomorrow morning.  Pray!