Again, a big thanks to all who are putting in energy and time to this conversation. I think its really helpful. I will try and respond to some of the comments made and see where we go from here.
1) It is evident that there are some disagreements re: the rightness or wrongness of simple church structures. I have really been trying to process this one. Because of a lot of really painful experiences for me, it has taken me a looooong time to come to a place of healing where I can see traditonal/seeker churches in a more balanced way. I do see some built in problems which I will try and point out further, but I also see people/leaders that have encountered Christ and want to make Him known. I am not being nice to Barry, he doesn't need that from me, I'm speaking my heart. I don't want to villainize the former in order to communicate what I see emerging. I want to move on and declare what I "am" about, instead of expressing what I'm "not" about. Its time for me to grow up and get over it because I am singularly motivated to see Kingdom happen in my community. As Rains said, there is no question that there are reasons why I do what I do, but I still don't see it as a right/wrong dichotomy.
2) Bishop absolutely nailed it on his thoughts expressed about the educational model of church that we have been accustomed to and his pursuit of more interactive, holistic and communal models of teaching. Although people are traditionally accustomed to attending a service and listening to a sermon, is this the best mode of how people learn? With what we know now of communication theory and education advances (i am a teacher by trade now as well), is 30 min. of one person talking the best mode for people to learn? Perhaps there are people that have this learning style but I would suggest that there are large populations of people who don't learn this way. Visual aids and creative elements are more helpful, but interaction and participation bring ownership for the individual learning. Relationship and trust are also dynamics that provide a great enviornment for learning. Smaller, more communal settings with high relationship I think provide the best atmosphere for spiritual formation.
3) If there is one issue that will get me on a soap box its the way $$ can drive ministry. I admitt to having real issues and history here. I longed to see if church could be done w/ out the need for $ in order to make it a non-issue. $$ is not the root of all evil, its the "love" of $ that is. What do I see that is unhealthy? We live in a consumer society where goods and services are exchanged at every moment. Its a part of our western worldview but it isn't Kingdom. Traditional church planting makes assumptions that certain costs are neccesary to have legitimate church. Particularly facility and paid staff. With more simple structures, these assumptions aren't neccesary. The pressure on a planter to get more people in order to get more $ can be a really destructive dynamic to the individual and the church. The drive to make these things happen have caused burnout and disallusionment that could have been avoided. Using $ to pay staff, provide facility and run programs can be done in healthy ways, but I don't think we have to assume our need for it. I have found that taking this issue off the table has brought enormous freedom to me as a leader and allowed us as a community to talk about our resources in missional ways and not have all the pressure of not having enough $. I often wonder if my view here is based on fear or conviction, still processing that.
4) Now to Barry's question about evangelism and reaching people. An admitted weakness to simple church structures is that its not exactly a fast way to grow more people into Christ following. But it is happening and in some creative ways. We count conversations and care for people as much as we do conversions. One of the reasons why I want to separate myself from "house church" language is because I think that house churches have often lacked the missional piece. We exist in small communities in order to be missional and express the Kingdom. (I'm speaking for myself here, many would disagree w/ me). Jesus and Paul were in mission towards people, no question in my mind. They were bold, asked lots of questions and proclaimed the Gospel of Kingdom without hesitation. I am not satisfied about our progress in this area and am in pursuit of more personal energy to reflect theologically, pray intentionally and think creatively in order to call people to a lifetime of following Christ. We do community really well, but we have to interface what we do in the small to people who are hurting and in bondage all around us in our neighborhoods. I think that hospitality may be pursued more for missional purposes. It may just be a matter of providing the space for evangelism to happen that fits our values and expresses our theology. More to come on this one.
Looking forward to hearing you talk back.
Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,