Monday, November 19, 2007

House Churches Today?

This is a call for theological discussion.

A hand full of people at our church here in South Korea have requested some radical changes in the way we do church. These are mostly postmoderns who are discontent with ordinary church, especially with the Sunday morning worship service.

Complaints from this group often come along similar themes:
- monotony (the same thing every Sunday: some singing, some Bible reading, a speech, some announcements, and we go home)
- lack of participation (When do we get to participate? Maybe the lecture style just isn't working any more. How can we actually respond to what we hear or sing? We talk about the gospel, but when do we actually do the gospel together?)
- lack of community (most of these people just come on Sunday morning and go home; we don't really know each other.)
- feels like a waste of time (I don't really get this one, but some people feel strongly about this. And to be honest, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I want to be open and accepting, I feel defensive when I hear this.)
- feels like just a habit or a tradition without significance or living meaning (We just go to church on Sunday morning because that's what Christians do, and we would feel weird not doing it. Do we have to 'put in our time' like this every Sunday for the rest of our lives?)
- not open to a diversity of opinions (You are expected to accept whatever is said w/o disagreement or discussion. But what if you consistently feel dissonance with the messages or with the underlying assumptions? Where do you take that feeling? Where can you have that discussion?).

So, some of our people have proposed an alternative solution: once a month, cancel "church" - the Sunday morning worship service. Instead of a corporate worship service, for that Sunday, they suggest that we have alternative events: service projects, discussion groups, meals in each other's homes, activities (like bowling or hiking), or house churches.
The rationale for this change goes like this.
1) It would bring some variety to the Sunday morning service, possibly helping us to appreciate the regular Sunday morning worship services.
2) It would break us out of our routine, helping us to think of church in new ways.
3) It would be a dramatic statement that "church" is not the Sunday morning worship service but the people who are the church.
4) We need to really get to know each other, to develop community, and this would help a great deal toward that end. Here in Korea, where many men (and some women) work 70-80 hours a week, participating in a small group is very difficult, and maybe even not a good idea for some. This could help them form community without burdening their schedules even more.
5) It would make church more participative and interactive.
6) The service project idea could help us put our ideas into action more easily. It could really help us to become "doers of the Word."

I confess to you that I find these ideas exciting and terrifying all at the same time. On one hand it seems like a really creative way to do church in an increasingly post-modern world. On the other hand, it feels threatening to me (You mean you don't like what I do every Sunday?). I also have a lot of questions about how it would work. It also seems to me like participation in a small group might solve most of these complaints. I am not very comfortable with canceling the corporate worship service in favor of social activities like hiking or bowling or general discussions. I am much more comfortable with service projects or house churches in lieu of corporate worship.

So here's the call for dialog.
Please help me think about this. What do you think of this idea?
Help me think through this theologically. How does this fit with the Bible and with a good theology of the church?
Help me think through this methodologically. How could we make this work? (For example: Do we pick the groups, to mix up social groups? Do we let the people for their own groups? Should we start by just having groups meet at the regular place of worship for the first few months?)
Why do I (and why might most long-time Christians) feel so uncomfortable with the idea of not having a corporate worship service every week? (I don't really care if it's Sunday morning. Saturday night or Sunday night, or whenever, are fine with me, but something within me just says we need one every week.)
Please leave lots of comments.
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