Fashionable fad or God-inspired trend?

In 2007, in the book Small Is Big!: Unleashing the Big Impact of Intentionally Small Churches (originally The Rabbit and The Elephant) which I co-authored with my husband, Tony, and George Barna, I wrote the following under the subtitle, “A fashionable fad”:

Another hazard we face is that of becoming fashionable, the latest phenomenon in church statistics, the trendy alternative to traditional church. There will always be people who hop onto the bandwagon because they want to be part of the latest thing, not because the Holy Spirit is leading them.

That has proved to be very true. When house church, or organic church, or simple church became a buzz word, many people jumped in with all four feet.  But, as I go on to say, if people don’t truly live out the DNA, they will soon find that what they have is only a pale substitute for the real thing.

Thankfully, those days are over. We’re no longer a fashionable fad.

I was very encouraged to read a recent blog post by entrepreneur and author, Seth Godin. (His blog is well worth following. He is able to clarify thoughts, especially about the digital age, in an extraordinary way.) The post is very short, and so I quote it in its entirety.

A fad is popular because it’s popular. A fad gives us momentary joy, and part of the joy comes in knowing that it’s momentary. We enjoy a fad because our peers are into it as well.

A trend, on the other hand, satisfies a different human need. A trend gains power over time, because it’s not merely part of a moment, it’s a tool, a connector that will become more valuable as other people commit to engaging in it.

Confusion sets in because at the beginning, most trends gain energy with people who are happy to have fun with fads, and it’s only when the fad fans fade away (yes, I just wrote ‘fad fans fade’) that we get to see the underlying power of the trend that’s going on.

I believe we have moved from fashionable fad to Holy Spirit inspired trend. Could it be “for such a time as this”?

Small is Big!

A fashionable fad

Several years ago, in our book The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small Is the New Big for Today’s Church, I wrote a chapter on some of the potential pitfalls the house church movement might face as it became “fashionable.” Here’s what I said:

Another hazard is that of becoming fashionable, the latest phenomenon in church statistics, the trendy alternative to traditional church. There will always be people who hop onto the bandwagon because they want to be part of the latest thing, not because the Holy Spirit is leading them. But those who join the simple church movement without truly understanding and living out its DNA will soon find that what they have is only a pale substitute for the real thing.

Photo Credit: MSVG via Compfight cc

I believe we have seen this come to pass over the past few years. Many people started groups outside the four walls of the sacred building in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit, often working with those who didn’t know the Lord. But as “house church” became a buzz word, others became involved because they wanted to be on the cutting edge of what God is doing. Churches changed their home groups to house churches without changing anything more than the name. For some it seemed a good idea and a way to escape the tedium of the status quo. So they did what they’ve always known in terms of meetings, but exchanged the pew for a sofa.

Some of the incredible growth we have seen (The Pew Forum reckons that 9% of Protestants “attend religious services” in homes) is due to this phenomenon. That phase is coming to an end. Those groups that only changed their name will either die,  join the next fad, or, hopefully, seek the Lord to change them. House/simple/organic church is now mainstream and I don’t think that will change, but what emerges over the next few years may be a truer reflection of what God is doing through this movement.

Just my two cents worth as I look back on the incredible things God has done. What do you think?