John White explains why he broke down in tears…

John White has been a friend for many years. We first met in 2001 when he came to our home to hear Wolfgang Simson speak–near the beginning of the simple/organic/house church movement in this country. John now runs a community for followers of Jesus around the world who explore rhythms of  life that result in vibrant churches meeting outside the walls of the building (Lk10.com). John is not normally an emotional guy, but he broke down in tears at “The Future of the Church Summit.” In this blogpost from the Lk10 site, he explains why:

Future of the Church Summit

I just returned from Loveland, CO where I attended a Conference sponsored by Group Publishing with about 130 church leaders on “The Future of the Church”.  On the last day, I was part of a panel and was asked to share a bit about LK10.  Click on my picture below to hear what happened when I started to talk…

(By the way, make sure you see more information about Josh Packard’s research below my video.)

Josh Packard

Josh Packard

While there were many presenters at the Summit, the most important, by far was Josh Packard.  Josh is a sociologist who’s research has uncovered the fact that 65 million Americans (31% of the adult population) are what he calls the “Dones”.  These are people who were once part of a church. In fact, they were often leaders, the “best and the brightest” according to Josh, but they are now “done” with church as they have known it.  What’s more, these people, for the most part, aren’t going back.  I can’t tell you what a staggering statistic this is!

The picture that came to me was Morpheus talking to Neo in the movie “The Matix”.  (Although Josh is nothing like Morpheus!)  Morpheus:  Let me tell you why you are here.  You are here because you know something.  What you know you can’t explain.  But, you feel it.  You felt it your entire life. That there is something wrong with the world (or the church?).  You don’t know what it is but it’s there.  Like a splinter in your mind.

Click on the photo to watch this 5 minute clip of Morpheus talking to Neo.

 

 

For a long time, a great many people have had this “splinter in their mind” regarding church but they couldn’t explain it.  And, now Josh has pulled the cover back and exposed what is really going on.

Two ways to hear more of what Josh has uncovered…

  • 8 minute video describing the “Dones”  (“They are not “casual Christians” or occasional attendees.  Most were in some leadership position in their church.”
  • 90 minute video.  In depth interview with Josh Packard about the “Dones”.  (“Most of these people are not coming back.”)

Back to the Future

While the Dones are not going back to the institutional church no matter how much it is “tweaked”, most of them have not abandoned God.  In fact, some say that they have left “the church” to preserve their faith.  And, the kind of church they are interested in looks surprisingly like the church portrayed in the book of Acts.  Here are some of the characteristics of that church…

  1. All the churches in the Bible met in a home and functioned like a small spiritual family.  The current institutional church, by contrast, spends a great deal of energy and money getting and maintaining a church building.
  2. The churches in the Bible were simple.  We describe “simple church” as a way of being/doing church where any believer could say, “I could do that!”.  (“they were astonished that Peter and John were unschooled, ordinary men”  Acts 4:13)  The institutional church, by contrast, requires highly educated, highly school (seminary, etc) highly creative people to be successful.  (Think Rick Warren, for instance.)
  3. In the NT churches, everyone used their gifts.  In institutional church, only a few, highly gifted people (worship leaders, preachers, etc.) use their gifts.
  4. In NT church, Jesus brought the agenda for the meetings.  In institutional churches, a few, very smart people design the worship experiences.
  5. In the NT, churches were started in a few hours or a few days.  Institutional churches require a great deal of planning and resources and take months or years to start.

Next step?

Want to learn more about doing/being church outside the institutional church?  Check out a free four week course called Church 101.

 

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!

Skate Church

What is God doing with simple/house churches in this country?

This past weekend, Tony and I spoke at a simple church conference in Lexington Kentucky. On the way there, I asked the Lord, “Father, what are you doing with house churches around this nation? Are they healthy?” I sensed his reply to me: “Check out what is happening with the people at this conference, and that will be an indication of what I am doing.”

Was I ever encouraged!!!

Simple/house churches are alive and well. Just check out this video that was produced about one of the churches in the Simple Church Alliance network–Skate Church!

On Board from Julia Chin on Vimeo.

What are we thinking?

I came across a shocking statistic earlier today.

According to the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (2012), the cost per baptism globally is $762,000!

What are we thinking?

I’m sure these figures include seminaries, buildings, training pastors etc., but sometimes I wonder, is this why Jesus died?

I know you cannot put a figure on the salvation of a soul, but surely there is a more cost-effective model (think simple churches meeting in homes with no specially trained leaders…)

 

 

Some scary statistics

Julie Ross, one of the co-authors of The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church compiled these scary statistics:

Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, to release captives, to free the oppressed.

What should be the response of his body, the church, to these figures that represent not numbers, but people for whom Jesus died? What can we do? How can we get involved? What can those of us involved in the simple/organic/house church movement do?

Indian girl

Photo Credit: Rakesh JV via Compfight cc

Starting a simple church can be simple

We may have just helped to start another church.

Sometimes starting a simple church can be just that–simple. We’ve had a wonderful couple from a Hindu background who have part of the church in our home for a while. We’ve prayed with them, baptized them, rejoiced with them at the miracles they’ve seen. When they had a baby, fairly recently, with their jobs and all their other commitments, plus the baby’s sleep schedule, getting to our home on a Friday evening became nearly impossible for them. Tony and I had breakfast and fellowship with them on occasion but they were missing the regular gathering.

A few weeks ago. I was contacted by a young couple who lives near us, asking if I knew of a simple church near them. I invited them to come visit the church that meets in our home. When their baby’s schedule made that impossible, I had a sudden revelation (duh!)

Let’s get these two couples together and see what happens. Both couples were excited at the idea.

So we did just that, 10 days ago, and the six of us had a great time of fellowship–learning about each other’s lives over brunch in one of their homes.

They were all part of a pool party we had on July 4th at our home. (Because July 4th was a Friday, we had a party instead of our normal church. It was BYOB–bring your own BBQ– and everyone was encouraged to bring others. About a third of those who came were friends and family of those in the church).

It’s too early to be sure yet, but I think we may have just laid the foundation of another simple church. Some of you may be thinking, “Just bringing two Christian couples together is starting a church?” Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It’s the presence of Jesus that makes it “church,” not the size. Now obviously more needs to happen. As they both reach out into their circles of influence, more people will get involved. But is it the basic building block of church? Yes!

July 4th sparklers

 

Rethinking movements

I’ve had the incredible privilege of being part of various moves of the Holy Spirit–most recently, the simple/organic/house church movement. Right now, I’m putting considerable thought into the topic of movements. The reason: Others have encouraged me not to just sit back after publishing The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church but to consider whether God might want to do more.

I’ve begun wondering if what is going on with women may turn out to be a move of God. I recently met with Alan and Deb Hirsch, both of whom feature in the book, and they, too, encouraged me to explore it further. My longing is certainly that men and women partner together as co-equals for the Kingdom.

My thoughts on this so far are very non-technical and only just beginning to take shape:

A movement occurs when the thoughts and actions of a group of individuals begin to impact the prevailing culture.

There are various different ways a spiritual movement begins:

  1. God begins to speak to different people in various places about the same thing. They find each other, and begin co-operating together. Examples would include the house church movements of both the UK and the US, both of which had a profound influence on the church culture.
  2. Austrian philosopher, Ivan Illich was once asked whether the best way to transform society was by revolution or reformation. His reply was, “Neither. You tell an alternative and compelling story.” Example? Luke 10:2b prayer went viral across the nations through the power of story.
  3. People actively engage in principles that are known to create transformation. Many church planting movements overseas are this way. There are well recognized principles to multiplying disciples and churches.

Obviously, we cannot manufacture movement. It takes a sovereign work of God. But we can co-operate with him. Many  Spirit-led movements are a combination of all three of these principles.

[Other secular movements may rely on resistance. For example, Gandhi or Mandela and peaceful collective action. The civil rights movement and the LGBT movements would also be examples. The people initially involved deliberately developed  strategies that changed nations.]

I have no idea if God will create a significant movement of men and women working together as co-equals, but I long that he does so. The indications are there. To me, it feels very similar to the beginning of other movements I’ve been part of.

What do you think?

If any of you are interested in hearing further developments as they arise (for example, there’s a round table happening later this month to discuss these issues further), you can sign up for email updates here. (If you’re already on the list of those praying for  The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church, you’ll automatically be included.)