Oct
03
2007

Better than average

Sitting on Bob and Barbette’s patio last Friday night, watching candles flicker while crickets provided the soundtrack for our guided meditation, I was overwhelmed by … gratitude.

As we shared a great meal, as Suzanne led us to focus on God’s presence with us, as we held hands and prayed (and some of us tried to balance on one foot), I realized how thankful I am for the Christians * at * large community. I’m thankful for all of you fellow travelers who share your stories with CAL and allow me to share mine. It’s good to know that I don’t have to walk this journey Jesus has called me to alone, and that together we’re asking the important questions and accepting that there aren’t always easy answers. And its wonderful to have a community where sharing meals with each other and sharing our lives with God’s world go hand in hand.

Just a couple days before I had breakfast with a pastor friend who asked me how I was doing in my sojourn outside the institutional church. “I’m doing all right,” I said. “I have a church, and it’s where I feel called to be.” I know several of you have had similar moments. It feels right to me that the church is where we are Christ for each other and where, together, we show God’s love for the community and world around us.

So thank you for walking along side of me as, together, we follow our master Jesus amid busy and fragmented lives in a world that is filled with so much beauty and pain. Thanks be to God for calling each of us to put our thoughts, energy and passion into God’s mission of making the world, and our lives, whole again.

Even though I’ve been blessed to visit with other “house churches” (maybe “simple churches” is a better term), to get to know other pilgrims on this journey and to read a lot about this growing movement, it’s still a new concept compared to my long history with the institution. So I was intrigued when I came across the following box on the pages of The Christian Century, a very mainline and traditional church magazine:

The house (church) next door

Facts about house churches, according to pollster George Barna

  • 20 = Average size of gathering
  • 2 hours = Average length of service
  • 80% = Gatherings that meet weekly
  • 64% = Gatherings that include children
  • 85% = Gatherings that include a meal
  • 59% = Number of people satisfied with the depth of their experience
  • 75% = Attenders who have met with their house church one year or less

What struck me was how “average” C*A*L is: There are often about 20 adults and kids, we’ve been meeting for less than a year, weekly, around a meal with services that include and engage our children. We do try to keep our services under two hours J, but I’ve been amazed to see how often we’re together for three hours or more, from supper to post-worship conversation over dessert.

C*A*L is, of course, anything but “average.” In fact, to our friends and family in “churched” culture what we do probably looks kind of odd. It’s important to know that we’re not alone as we break new ground, to find a new wineskin for the fresh wine of the Gospel in our lives and circumstances. Pollster Barna, who gathered the figures above, estimated in 2005 that several million Christians were meeting in house groups like ours every week (not counting the very prevalent “small groups” fostered by many large churches). By 2025, he predicts, 1 in 3 adult Christians will have a gathering like CAL as their primary church. And the media is catching on. (See Time’s “Why home churches are filling up” and ABC News’ “Living room liturgy”)

Oddly enough, Martin Luther in 1526 predicted the rise of such gatherings of Christians. And he supported the idea, he just didn’t see the desire for them to start at the time.

It just goes to show that there really are no new ideas. Gathering in homes, around Scripture and a meal, is pretty much all the early church knew, and that seemed to work out pretty well for them, and for God’s mission. And after all that’s why we’re here… to root ourselves in God’s love and to share that love with God’s world. Not a bad old idea after all!

God’s peace

Bob

PS — I’d love to hear your thoughts about where we are in this adventure. Drop a comment below!

Written by Bob Fisher in: being church |

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