Monday, September 29, 2008

Money Talk Church

I think about house churches a lot, talk about them frequently, and write about them occasionally. Yet for all of that I've never really been a part of one much less led or planted one, though I have visited a few. It's frustrating and not just a little embarrassing. And it leaves me with persistent, nagging doubts about just how realistic all this thinking is. So naturally I'm thrilled whenever I meet someone who is in a house church. That's always a great encouragement. But I read something in the paper on Monday that really convinced me that this can work. It was an article about the Smart Cookies - a group of women who banded together to help each other get out of debt. Here are some excerpts from the article:

In 2006, these five young professionals living in Vancouver, B.C., formed a "money club," a sort of financial-health support group. After two years, they reduced their collective debt from $55,000 to $10,000. All either own their own homes or are on the way there, and are regularly making deposits in IRAs and savings accounts.

They accomplished this impressive feat by setting individual spending limits at weekly meetings, then holding the overspenders accountable -- over a bottle of wine -- at the next meeting. They shared clothes, low-cost recipes, advice and encouragement. Each week, one member researched a topic to share with the group, such as how to calculate credit-card interest.

"The first meeting was really scary, laying out all our checking and Visa statements for everyone to see. A bottle of wine was definitely involved, which we recommend."

"We'd all tried on our own, read all these financial books, but it had no effect on our lifestyle. Knowing you have to share your saving and spending record for the week helps you resist temptation."

That's not a house church, but it absolutely could be.

Just look at the themes that are in play:
  • Small group
  • Frequent, regular gatherings
  • Self-organizing
  • Openness based on trust rooted in mutual acceptance
  • Real-life relevance and goal-focused
  • Accountability (sought, not imposed)
  • Joy and celebration
What really amazes me is that the very topic we struggle to get people to engage seriously in church - namely money - is the topic they are most eager to focus on!

These days when people are so anxious about money as they watch Congress try to respond to the hosing/credit/banking crisis and the market teeters it really makes you wonder... couldn't we start churches with a mission to help people put their financial houses in order like these women did?

Of course, there would be suspicion. We're talking about money of course. People would wonder if this is just a front to get them to contribute to some denomination or pay the salary of the "evangelist." They'll be watching for the catch and wanting to read the fine print.

But what if the church planter/evangelist took no salary? What if he or she had independent support from other churches that wanted to bless the new congregations, or maybe worked a regular job as well on the side... like making tents or something?

Nah. It'd never work.

Too bad though. I'd love to give it a try.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Twin Cities House Churches

For the last two years I've been looking to see how God might use me to support the house church movement. Along the way, I've encountered quite a few people here in the Twin Cities who are involved in house churches but I haven't seen much in place to help them link up or even just have conversation to share stories, learnings and encouragement.

When Jon Dale set up the Simple Church network it seemed like a good opportunity for me to create a common space within it for people in my area. So I set up a group called "Twin Cities, MN" within the SC network. I don't have a specific agenda or a vision for this online group, but I do hope it makes it easier for people to connect in person. It's great we have access to so many social networks now and it's a gift that they let us connect across the miles and the seas. But I do believe we need people locally as well that we can meet and work with in person.

If you are interested in simple/house/organic church expressions I encourage you to check out this network. It's only been up for a couple of weeks but already has over 600 members and quite a few of them are outside the US. And if you are in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area, I'd really love to have you join the group I set up there. Maybe we can work towards having a public site for the area like the excellent one put up by Colorado House Churches.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Easum, Emergent and more conversations about Truth

There's a valuable conversation taking place just now between Bill Easum and Emergent-minded folks that I've been adding my voice to just a bit. In fact, Bill is stimulating several conversation on his blog where he's described...
"...a growing conversation is taking place that no Christian leader can afford to ignore. The players in this conversation are multiplying like rabbits. As we will see in a moment, much of the future of Western Christianity lies at the heart of this conversation. So we had better pay attention.

Here’s a list of the primary players as of now

The Emergent Folks
The Incarnational Folks
The Organic Folks
The Attractional Folks
The Reproductive Folks"

He's taking each of those players in turn to offer his insights and advance the discussion. I highly recommend it. (Bill has been a formative influence in missionalizing my faith for a decade or so.)

Part of his conversation with emergents is playing out in parallel on the Emergent Village blog, which is where I've done most of my posting. I expect this to be especially valuable because Bill and Tony Jones will be alternating posts once a week in a month long "blogologue."

My own interest really spikes when this conversation turns to discussion truth and knowing which is a giant piece of the conflict between Modern and Postmodern thinking that so often is playing out between Evangelicals and Emergents these days. I confess, I like that stuff in part becasue it's brain candy for me. But I'm also very excited becasue I see it having massive practical implications for daily Christian life and evangelical mission.

If you want to follow the discussion and see my writings so far, you can find that at the EV blog I mentioned above. But I'll also be posting a synopsis here soon as well.