Saturday, May 24, 2008

Media Scan - Recent Articles of Note

Local/Cell-Church: The Minneapolis Star Tribune has an article on Julie Jacobs and her cell church network, Frontier Fellowship. Julie was the first person I profiled for this blog in my 100 Cups of Coffee thread. The article gives a nice introduction to her work and her cell-church approach, and it's good to see the point in print that it's not intended as a rejection of larger/conventional congregations or as a competition for members. My only quibble is where Julie says that "Home churches are trying to grow big enough that they can get a building" in contrast to cell churches that aspire to grow in order to multiply into more cells. (Frankly, I'm skeptical that Julie would make that kind of sweeping generalization.) Obviously, some HCs do aspire to get back in the building, while others intend to grow by multiplication instead. Most of the people I'm in contact with who are active or interested in house church forms are interested in growth by multiplication and are pretty passionate about steering clear of buildings.

National/House Church: My Google Alert service constantly scans the web & blogosphere for me in search of key words and phrases and sent me a surprising notice yesterday. Someone over on the Huffington Post was talking about house churches! This I had to see. Turns out it came up in the post Small Is the New Big in Progressive Politics by Rob McKay. The article is about political organizing strategy and "whether the Democratic Party is about short-term voter excitement or permanent citizen engagement." In that context, he makes these observations:

This new group of efforts focuses on local leadership, small circles, and cultural organizing. They are taking their strategies from the anti-slavery movement, groups like craigslist, and most surprisingly, a new Christian movement. "We keep saying that the evangelical churches gave Bush the White House," Erin Potts, a leader in strategic thinking for groups as diverse as foundations and big rock bands, said. "If we want to know, we have to study it and see what works. And what works, is culture and small groups. The emerging house church movement has a very dynamic and interesting strategy."

Potts and other organizers note that while overall church attendance has steadily declined since the 1990s, a new form of church has taken off--the house church. Unlike traditional churches, the house church movement doesn't meet in a specific house of worship, but instead, as the name suggests, in people's homes. While traditional churches have hierarchical leadership, the house church meets as a circle of peers, and while churches try to grow the membership of a congregation, house churches purposely splinter into smaller groups as soon as a circle gains more than a handful of members.

The success of the house church movement is staggering. Membership is well into the millions. One study suggests that 70 million Americans regularly attend or have experimented with a house church.

I think it wold be pretty ironic if political groups took more and better notice of the HC movement than Christian denominations and congregations. Ironic, but in a way not surprising. Like people in the business world, politicos are driven by a powerful zeal to get an outcome; elections won and policies enacted for one, profit and market share for the other. This drive can lead to experimentation, risk, innovation etc. and it's commonplace to see churches learning from the business world - although typically after quite a lag. But sometimes it seems that urgency, drive and passion are more prevalent in politics and business than in the Church. Profit and power more motivating than sharing the gospel? "Irony" isn't enough to cover that; it's just plain sad.

Moving right along, and to something more encouraging, here's my third newscatch.

Denominational/Emergent: My denominational magazine, The Lutheran devotes its cover article for June to Emergent/emerging ministries with profiles of three examples within the ELCA and a study guide. I haven't read it yet so I can't comment on the content But I will say that my little heart went pitter-pat when I read this among the study guide questions:

If you had a school, home or prison where people proclaimed the gospel and
celebrated the sacraments, would that be the church? Why or why not?
If you're familiar with my blog, you'll know I believe that is a question for which we have an answer - and a very, very Lutheran one at that.


Julie Jacobs said...

Hi Tim, Thanks for your post regarding our recent article in the Star Tribune. You are correct in assuming that I was misquoted regarding the motive for house church. As you know, there are many reasons why a church would pursue this model, few of which would have a building as the goal. Many new church plants do begin in homes, although a 'house church' typically meets in a home on purpose...yes?

Overall, the article in the Star Tribune was a fair and balanced representation of the cell church ministry we are involved in, Frontier Fellowship/Rivertown Christian Ministries International, and most of the statements in the article were accurate, however, this one was not. Thanks for pointing this out to your readers, many of whom are pastors of great house churches!

You can learn more about cell church in general and Frontier Fellowship specifically at:

Also: Join us for the St. Paul Christian Creative Arts festival, June 7-8th, Noon to Dusk, 1115 Greenbrier St., St. Paul, MN 55106. Art displays from every creative Christian genre to the glory of God! Songwriting, Textile, Canvas, Poetry, Dance, Drama, Video.

Free Concert Saturday evening, June 7th, 7:00pm- Firestarters Band!! Bring the Teens!

Julie Jacobs, Pastor, Frontier Fellowship/RCMI

Pastor Tim Thompson said...

Hi Julie - great to hear from you! And thanks for verifying my suspicion. I still have a hard time getting over the fact - and I've seen it before - that things in newspapers with quotes around them are not necessarily actual quotes. *Sigh* The article is on the Star Tribune website and has a comment section, so I posted there this morning and let people know they could find your clarification here.