I think anyone having anything to do with the fields of religion or theology should be reading the religion section of The Huffington Post. I found an article on home churches entitled “‘Simple Churches’ Find A Foothold Across The U.S” that both piqued my interest and stuck in my craw.
Cathy Lynn Grossman writes about the small but growing movement of American Christians toward home churches. “Simple Church,” as Grossman called it, takes place at the different homes of the different members who attend. There is Bible study, worship and communal meals. It certainly is enticing for anyone who has become exacerbated by church politics and hierarchy. No building, no budgets and no pastor.
If this sounds familiar to you Methodists, that’s because it’s exactly what the Methodist movement was when it began in the 18th century. The exact reason you have so many small, rural UMC churches today is due to the fact that most of them began their lives as small groups meeting in people’s homes. Then, they eventually wanted a building. And so on. This fact, of course, is admitted as foreshadowing.
The quote that stuck out to me from the entire article was from a man who worships at a “Simple Church” in Texas–a cowboy church. He says he likes being a part of that particular church because he can worship with “folks who speak ‘cowboy’ like I do.” Isn’t that telling?
Somewhere in my hard drive, I have a video entitled “Me Church.” It is a fake advertisement for a church that meets everyone’s needs. It starts by using the testimonials of perspective parishioners with requests like “how about making it at a time that is perfect for me” and “I want others to move if junior here starts crying.” It ends with someone saying they wouldn’t even consider going to church unless there were Super Bowl tickets in it for him.
I am not saying our com boy friend is making these types of outlandish demands, but I am saying that sentiment is just plain wrong when it comes to membership and participation in the local church. It isn’t about having your felt needs met. It isn’t about gathering together with those who are just like you. In fact, the entirety of the New Testament epistles is the formation of churches where people from many walks of life worshipped the one God.
What portion of Jesus teaching says to huddle in each others homes and read the scripture you want to read? Were the apostles and early church fathers persecuted for gathering in their homes and having a nice brunch? Is the Great Commission an invitation to your own home?
I am not saying there is no merit to the idea of small groups or home churches. In fact, I have been looking into what it would take to begin a small groups ministry in the church where I am currently serving. This idea should be a companion to the regular gathering of believers in a church, not a way to subvert it.
As the article points out, the risk–which I can only assume is more than minor–is that the theology taught in these home churches can easily become unorthodox without connection to a hierarchy or presiding pastor. Yeah, this is the point which sticks in my craw. How poorly does society understand Christian orthodoxy now, and how much worse will it get with a trend like this?
This turned into a stream of consciousness, but I hope you get what I am saying about this article and movement. It isn’t a bad idea. If it is done for the right reasons and has some connection to orthodoxy, it could be a good thing.
If it’s because we don’t like a pastor who uses multi-syllabic words and sounds educated, we might want to re-think