Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Churches in coffee shops & homes a growing trend

A recent article in the Christian Chronicle highlights the growing trend of churches meeting in non-traditional locales. For the full article, see http://www.christianchronicle.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=342. The article states:

Prominent evangelical Christian researcher George Barna predicts that within 20 years, one-third of American church members will explore alternative forms of worship, such as home churches, workplace ministries or online faith communities. He suggests many Americans are leaving regular churches “precisely because they want more of God in their life but cannot get what they need from a local church.”“They have decided to get serious about their faith by piecing together a more robust faith experience,” Barna said last year. “Instead of going to church, they have chosen to be the church."

My thoughts--it seems that our normal, formal assemblies do not connect with younger generations. They miss the relational aspect of the church, and coffee shops and homes promote a relational atmosphere. The physicality of the worship assembly subconsciously communicates to us what is appropriate, and sitting in rows of pews communicates formality and an audience atmosphere. If we do not somehow address this, we risk losing the younger generations.

What do you think about coffee shop and house churches? And how can we make traditional church settings more relational?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not only does this apply to the younger generation but also for non believers who churches should be trying to reach. So many people who have never been a part of a church will not even visit a traditional church. By inviting that type of person to a less traditional invironement to introduce them to God's teachings may be all it takes to spark an interest. What is being experienced and taught should be more important than where it takes place.

James said...

Dear anonymous,

I like what you said: "What is being experienced and taught should be more important than where it takes place." So true! And yet, for some reason, there are some churches and some church members that object to having Bible studies during regular "church times" (Sun. Wed.) outside of the church building. Can you imagine Jesus having this attitude?

Thanks for commenting!

Charleen said...

In Luke 19:10, Jesus tells us he came to seek and save the lost. There may be some "lost" people in the physical church building, but there are more "lost" people out there. In Ezekiel 34, the flock was not tended to and was scattered. This past Thursday and Friday, I took my youngest son to the water park. A local small church had decided to have their VBS at the park. What a great opportunity to reach people. Children of "lost" parents could hear the message of Gods love and plant a seed at home. In Matthew 18 (The parable of the lost sheep), we too are called to seek and save the lost.

The church building is a great place for worship, but not everyone is looking for a church home. Some may not yet realize that a church home is what they need in their lives. This comes from personal experience. As an adult, I knew deep down I missed going to church and the way I felt inside when I was attending, but I wasn't looking for a church to go to. It took a seed planted at home to make me find one and be happy again. That seed is my oldest son who was very persistant about wanting to go to Church because of what he had learned from books and friends. The younger generation will find something when they are searching. Hopefully the right message is being said in enough places for them to hear it.

Jesus taught everywhere. I think it is great that people want to get serious about their faith, even in coffee shops.

James said...

Charlene,

Thank you for sharing your personal experience. You said, "I knew deep down I missed going to church and the way I felt inside when I was attending, but I wasn't looking for a church to go to."

This indeed is the problem with simply an attractional model of outreach. Most people are not looking for a church to go to. They are, however, looking for God. So we must take the church to the people, as you say.

Great thoughts, and it is wonderful to see when people take up Christ's call to "seek" out the lost.

Anonymous said...

I believe we are missing the point of the assembling. It is to edify one another and praise God. If we only want to be evangelic during "church services" then we will never win a soul to God. We must be living the christian life daily and teaching at every opportunity. Obvious the assembly is important as it says that many were forsaking the assembling together with the saints. Perhaps this is just a way for us to get an excuse to not have to drive to services when we would rather be doing something else.

As for the younger generation, I don't buy it that they need to be entertained. We were all children at one time and some of my greatest memories of the church are setting in the pew hearing the word of God preached. If we need to entertain these kids today, what will it be like in 20 more years. Stick to the scriptures and make them learn how to listen. It all starts at home.

I'm fearful the church of Christ just wants to change and be like other churches that want to change with what society wants. If meeting together was good enough for the first century christians, then it's good enough for me. I/we can still go to the coffee shops and etc and have a service, but I don't think we need to do it on Sunday mornings during the scheduled times our elders have set aside.

James said...

Anonymous,

You bring up some interesting points. You are correct that many want to substitute going out into the world for evangelism in our primary assembly. There are two problems with this: 1) there are fewer and fewer people who even want to "go to church"; and 2) if our worship is primarily directed at converting people, we have failed to properly worship God and edify one another.

What Scripture does make clear is that in our main assembly, outsiders should be able to understand what is going on, sense God's presence, and be drawn to fall on their knees and worship God (1 Cor. 14).

The changes that we do not need to make are changes in our fundamental beliefs. However, we do need to change our methods in order to reach people. Paul made a conscious decision to be "all things to all people" in order that he might win as many people to Christ as possible. There is nothing sacred about a "church" building. If holding an assembly (worship, Bible study, fellowship, or outreach event) in another locale will help others come, why would we be opposed to this?

Churches that throw away beliefs in order to reach people die--witness the deline in the mainline denominations. This is a good point. At the same time, churches that hold methods and traditions as sacred distort the gospel and risk being viewed as irrelevant by both members and outsiders.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you would consider alternative forms of meeting and not consider using instruments in worship because you want to imitate the first century church. Why is it that the church is the only place in society that wants to keep doing things they way they were done in 50 AD?

James said...

Anonymous,

I see your point. Here is my reasoning. There is perhaps a theological underpinning to a cappella singing (God is Spirit, and we worship him with our bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit) to go along with the historical practice of the church on this issue.

Wherever historical practice and theology coincide, this is something to be kept the same. However, if something is historical without theological underpinning, then it can be changed.

There is no theological underpinning that says that we have to meet in a church building. In fact, this concept falls short historically as well, since the early church met most often in homes. Therefore, we can meet wherever we want and in most any setting. Theologically, following the example of Christ, we always seek to go to where people are, rather than expecting them to come to us.

SuseADoodle said...

Barna said: “Instead of going to church, they have chosen to be the church."

I have to admit, I haven't read the article yet. I did read your comments on it and felt a need to make a comment.

I am not a Younger Generation, though I don't feel my age (46) -- I still think I'm about 18 and look back to some of my church experiences, in my teens, in the late 70s, as what I seek in a church today. I don't find what I am looking for inside the doors of a building nor in the teachings that I hear there. The church doesn't meet my needs: and they don't include being entertained, but 'fed' and challenged to fulfill my purpose (know God) and my calling (to be an ambassador and steward of God's love and grace) within my gifts and office (to help me help my brothers and sisters fulfill their purpose and calling, too).

I despair of finding a church that meets my needs that is not legalistic in its teachings and calling me to a righteous life instead of a focused life. I do, however, deeply miss the fellowship and support that fellow believers give one another.

I used to be a church secretary and one week the pastor wanted to name his sermon "The People Of God In The Temple of Doom." Since I had not yet seen that movie, I said "Sure why not?" He explained two points of his sermon: (1) in the Bible, we are not commanded to 'go to church to worship Him,' and (2) the Glory of God left the Temple when the 'program became more important than the people" they were to serve.

I was surprised by the comment about worship and asked God what church is about then ... supporting one another came back as the answer, enabling me/us to go out and worship, study the Word, and evangelize, edifying me/us to live focused on God, encouraging me/us to fulfill the purpose and calling God has give each of us, and equipping me/us to do those things.

If the focus of church-time is not to fulfill our "Weekly Recommended Allotment" of worship, study and prayer (things all believers should be doing daily themselves), it is also not the time to be evangelizing. It is the time for refueling the believer to go "do the work of the ministry."

James said...

Susadoodle,

It sounds like you are really searching and have had many unfulfilling experiences with churches.

You mention looking for a church that:
1) is not legalistic in its thinking;
2) calls one to a righteous lifestyle;
3) offers fellowship and support.

These it seems are good characteristics to be found in any church. May God guide you in your path and in your search.

James