Church for some of us happens in TINY increments, TINY spaces and sometimes with TINY amounts of people. It happens many times a week and many times a day when the various aggregations of God's people come together around coffee or taking care of business or helping someone and especially at mealtimes. It happens more often in my kitchen than in my study. Our “oikos”, or extended family, changes daily depending on who is eating with us or staying with us that day, but it is still a tiny cellular unit that finds variety and visibility only when connected to other oikoses like it. Then it is seen as an integral part of the church in our city. . . .ok . . . town.
It is not always tiny - sometimes it is HUGE - like when we camp out at nation-wide festivals with thousands of others. But for the most part, it is tiny and often not recognized as “church” by those who attend a traditional-style church that is defined by a two hour meeting on Sunday. Simple/organic church people have got a cold shoulder from “church” leaders for a decade. Singularity frowns on modularity. They are considered a threat to the system. They are called “house church” but that doesn't really fit what they [we] are doing. Its not house church and its not “small groups” and its not rebellion against church. Its attempting to BE the church as God intended it.
Even in the emerging church, finding people who understand that is not an easy task. Nor is it an attractive proposition - if you want to be a well known conference speaker or a local pastor with CLOUT in your denomination which measures success in the cold-war terms of size, weight and longevity (Friedman), then a shift to the emerging-missional-organic church is a VERY BAD CAREER MOVE. It may be great for the Kingdom, but it will NOT pimp your image or make you money or get you on the speaker list at conferences - Most conferences only invite speakers who RE-INFORCE their existing model which in most Christian circles, is the centralized ecclesial model with a tithing system, a set of buildings that need butt-filling and an army of M.Div Seminary graduates who need a position as pastor in the kind of church that theological education has trained them for. Not saying that system is bad, but I am saying it is DIFFERENT and difference is a threat that the promoters of that system do not want to deal with.
Co-existence is possible, however. And so is the possibility of the various models blessing each other. In recent interviews, Brian McLaren and George Barna show great understanding of this issue.
Brian: “I also believe that we need spontaneous neighborhood faith communities that will not be able to afford a paid pastor, nor will they need one.” HT: Fred
George: “To do: really emphasize how it is that you are preparing each family unit to be the church”
Both men will be speaking at Off The Map Nov 3-4, which looks like a conference that bucks the trend.
Jesus talks about the Kingdom like yeast - tiny, hidden, invisible, yet it works its way through every part of the lump. Its not about the big hits and the sensational events and the ridiculous amounts of people that attend your programs, despite all those bios you read on book covers and conference invitations. Church happens in tiny spaces where no one notices. It is rhizomic, like couch grass and potatoes. Its NOT a big deal to people but it IS a big deal to God.
The missionary Roland Allen said, in a 1930's letter to his sponsors who were asking for big stories,
“I do not trust spectacular things. Give me the seed growing secretly every time.”
And as Steve Jobs would say, “One more thing . . .”
- my esteemed CMS colleague Richard White of Liverpool and I putting down some thoughts and plans for 2007 - a series of training experiences and web resources that will assist the emerging church to step into its next season. This will be UK based but other countries are invited to participate with us. You will hear more about this in the near future but if this interests you, if this is YOUR BAG, and you might be willing to help, then leave a comment below with a link to either email or your blog.
- Massive is the New Big (the other side of this coin)
- Like a Rhizome Cowboy
- House Churches Have No Sex Appeal
- Yeast, Bud Emergence and Kingdom
- And read this blog entry to see if measuring the emerging church needs a . . .
- A recent book by Paul Viera called Jesus Has Left The Building says it well.
- Wolfgang Simpson releases a new book on November 10 that says it again. This will be the “big brother” book to his Houses That Change the World. And yes, I am reading the manuscript for his new book right now.
- DAWN USA have some good resources on their Simple Church page.