Friday, May 27, 2016

Understanding the ‘Simple Church’ Movement

The term “simple church” is birthed out of frustration. We need to describe this phenomenon often called “house church,” but all people in this movement do not like being identified by a “house.” They point out that these churches do not meet just in houses; they also meet in restaurants, businesses, or other settings. What defines simple churches is not location but emphasis.

We want to describe a certain kind of house church; however, Daniel and I do want to describe accurately what this movement does. Thus, we are going to most often use the term “simple church.” Essentially the term “simple church” describes churches that emphasize a common life in Christ. This is achieved theoretically by prioritizing certain values and practically by limiting group size. Simple churches also tend to function completely by face-to-face relationship. If everyone cannot be “in common,” the church is no longer a simple church. Robert Banks explains:

[Simple church] involves face-to-face meeting of adults and children who are committed to developing a common life in Christ. They meet weekly in a house, apartment, or other convivial space. More important than the setting is their mutual care for and accountability to one another. As an extended Christian family they desire to sing, pray, learn, share, love, play, and have a meal (which is also their Lord’s supper) together. Through their mutual ministry to one another they learn to identify and use the gifts God had given them and they are therefore more confident in engaging in mission through various individual ministries in their homes, neighborhoods, work places, and wider communities. While they view themselves as church they also recognize the importance of congregating regularly with a larger group of God’s people.

Simple churches have prioritized face-to-face relationships and common life to such a degree that their fellowships take forms that are significantly different from traditional churches. Their commitment to community is impressive in that they intentionally limit group size so that members cannot be a part of the church without being truly connected with the church members.

Thus, we will use the term simple but will also use the term house church when appropriate.

Until recently the concept of simple church in the West was relegated to the back burner in the church world. Yet this continues to be the method God uses in most parts of the world to expand his kingdom rapidly (China is a great example, with estimates of more than tens of millions of “underground” Christians meeting in house churches). Simple-church proponents in the West, however, have often been painted as “disgruntled” Christians who are pulling out of established churches or as groups that quickly become ingrown.

Simple churches have been an intriguing, though limited, experiment among Christians in the West—with little success in the past for sustaining a movement of this simple strategy. But the phenomenon seems to be picking up some steam and even caught the attention of The New York Times years ago: “A growing number of Christians across the country are choosing a do-it-yourself worship experience in what they call a ‘house church.’” And that number (we think) is still growing. Read More
This "lane" may be the best lane for Anglicans in some communities and even regions in North America.

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