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3/06/2006

THE REFORMATION CONTINUES

On a Sunday at their modest, gray ranch house in the Denver suburb of Englewood, Tim and Jeanine Pynes gather with four other Christians for an evening of fellowship, food and faith. Jeanine's spicy rigatoni precedes a yogurt-and-wafer confection by Ann Moore, none of the food violating the group's solemn commitment to Weight Watchers. The participants, who have pooled resources for baby sitting, discuss a planned missionary trip and sing along with a CD by the Christian crossover group Sixpence None the Richer. One of the lyrics, presumably written in Jesus' voice, runs, "I'm here, I'm closer than your breath/ I've conquered even death." That leads to earnest discussion of a friend's suicide, which flows into an exercise in which each participant brings something to the table--a personal issue, a faith question--and the group offers talk and prayer. Its members read from the New Testament's Epistle to the Hebrews, observe a mindful silence and share a hymn.

The meeting could be a sidebar gathering of almost any church in the country but for a ceramic vessel of red wine on the dinner table--offered in communion. Because the dinner, it turns out, is no mere Bible study, 12-step meeting or other pendant to Sunday service at a Denver megachurch. It is the service. There is no pastor, choir or sermon--just six believers and Jesus among them, closer than their breath. Or so thinks Jeanine, who two years ago abandoned a large congregation for the burgeoning movement known in evangelical circles as "house churching," "home churching" or "simple church." The week she left, she says, "I cried every day." But the home service flourished, grew to 40 people and then divided into five smaller groups. One participant at the Pyneses' house, a retired pastor named John White, also attends a conventional church, where he gives classes on how to found, or plant, the house variety. "Church," he says, "is not just about a meeting." Jeanine is a passionate convert: "I'd never go back to a traditional church. I love what we're doing."

Since the 1990s, the ascendant mode of conservative American faith has been the megachurch. It gathers thousands, or even tens of thousands, for entertaining if sometimes undemanding services amid family-friendly amenities. It is made possible by hundreds of smaller "cell groups" that meet off-nights and provide a humanly scaled framework for scriptural exploration, spiritual mentoring and emotional support. Now, however, some experts look at groups like Jeanine Pynes'--spreading in parts of Colorado, Southern California, Texas and probably elsewhere--and muse, What if the cell groups decided to lose the mother church?


Read the rest of TIME MAGAZINE'S article on "simple church" here. And a response by Tim Pyne, a leader in the home church movement worldwide.

(HT:TSK)

5 Comments:

Anonymous Jason said...

I just got done reading George Barna's new book "Revolution" which is about this. His research is fairly shocking to those who live in a "traditional" church mindset. It is an interesting read no doubt. I am still processing what I think about it. I did find myself relating to the person he was talking about a lot.

3/06/2006  
Blogger Sarah said...

I tend to agree somewhat with Thom Rainer where he talks about groups becoming doctrinally unsound---but then I think of the churches I know that are very doctrinally unsound, and I think that maybe that's not as big of an issue as I think it is.

I think that home churches and "normal" churches can very well exist together. Just like there's different denominations, there's also different sized churches. And that's ok. I may like my 850 member church, someone else might like their 2,000 member church, and still others like the home church idea.

Good stuff to think about.

3/06/2006  
Blogger Amy said...

um, how does one find such a home church to join? :-)

3/06/2006  
Blogger Heather from IN said...

Does anyone out there have an extra Invisible Children DVD? There e-store is "broke" and I really would like a copy. I know they come in packs of two so you can share :D!

3/06/2006  
Anonymous Wess said...

This is definitely food for thought. I think that my concern is that these home churches might lose connection to the body at large and only see the world around them.

I think that both kinds of churches are referenced in the New Testament. I think in Acts it started that way but I think by the time you get to 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus you also see the formation of larger congregations. I think that both kinds have their purpose, it just depends on the situation which one is appropriate. However, I think that some sense of organization and cooperation needs to remain between both.

3/06/2006  

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