The State We Find Ourselves In
Christianity and the church is in trouble...
- In the West, we're losing 3,000 people from the faith, not from the church—from the faith, every day.
- In North America, over the past several years we've been losing over a million Christians from the church each year.
- In the U.S., for every new church that's started, three close.
And those statistics1 just scratch the surface. We believe there's a solution and we're looking for a few good disciples of Jesus to make a difference.
Church as Business as Usual isn't the answer.
Einstein said that the definition of insanity was to do the same thing and expect different results. For all practical purposes, we've been practicing Christianity in very nearly the same way for over 1,700 years. During the first three hundred years, the church flourished across the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and into Europe. However, in AD 323 something changed. Constantine, the Emperor from the East, had the first church building constructed in Bethlehem at the behest of his mother. From that moment on, the face of the church changed significantly.
Now, it is clear that God blessed the work of the building-based church and continues to do so. However, the majority of these churches in North America are shrinking. And of those that are growing, most of them are adding former members from other churches. Only a few churches in the U.S. are growing because they are reaching the unchurched and the irreligious. Note that every major religion (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) in the U.S. is growing except for Christianity (Clegg 30). Christians and the church are going to have to do something different.
We believe there's a solution.
We can't turn back the hands of time. We don't live in pre-Constantinian Europe, we live in post-Christendom North America. However, we can learn something from the ancient church. We can learn what worked so well that Paul could write to the Romans that he'd run out of new places to evangelize and had to set his sights on Spain (Romans 15:20-23). That something is the House Church.
Most global church researchers agree that one of the primary reasons that Christianity is growing all over the world (outside of North America and the West) is that House Churches are reaching the unreached and multiplying rapidly. In fact, Christianity is growing worldwide at a rate of 190,000 new Christians each day (compare that to our losses in North America and the West), largely because of the House Church movement.
So, why isn't it happening here? What is keeping the House Church movement from multiplying here in the U.S.? Because we haven't yet reached the "tipping point" (see Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point). The House Church is still in its infancy, largely because what has worked so well in China, India, and elsewhere doesn't necessarily translate well into American.
A Response [ TOP ]
The Rock House Church Network was our initial response to the growing spiritual malaise across North America. The Rock had been a rather unconventional brick-and-mortar church, but we came to the conclusion that - for us - continuing to pour money into a church building and perpetual salaries was both counter-productive and faithless. So, we sold our building and launched a three-year "experiment" to see if we could manufacture a model for house church that matched to global movements.
Three years later, where do we stand? Wiser and humbler. What we discovered was that God didn't put us on earth to manufacture anything that's of the spiritual realm. We don't have the tools, the technology, nor the ability. The fact is, movements happen when the Spirit moves. Period. The Lord told us to pray for God to raise up workers for the harvest field (Luke 10:2), not for us to get out there and recruit, convince, and cajole people into our mold. When we do, we take living stones and turn them into bricks - they fit well in a the conventional church's structure, but all in all they're just another brick in the wall. Bricks all look the same and they don't do much aside from keeping inclimate weather out. Living Stones, on the other hand, do God's bidding, whatever that may be.
And so, we don't recruit anymore - instead, we pray. We beseech the Lord of the harvest to raise up workers and to send them out into the harvest fields. And if we can assist those God raises up by supporting them, helping to train them, coaching, or mentoring them, well, then our three-year experiment has been a grand success.
Our Passion [ TOP ]
What do we do, if we don't recruit anymore? Our passion is to be the John Deere of House Church and other Church-Without-Walls alternatives in North America. We want to equip harvesters, offer them training when desired, give them the tools they need, encourage them, and support them. If someone locally (Seattle-Tacoma) wants to be a part of The Rock, great. But for the vast majority of those being sent into the harvest fields, we just want to be whatever they need us to be and provide as many sowing, cultivating, and harvesting tools as possible.
Our Hope [ TOP ]
Outside of the West, Christianity is growing to the tune of 190,000 people each day. Our hope is to be available as an instrument in God's toolbox used to reach our neighbors, community, city, county, state, nation, and continent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just a tool. But we hope to be a well-used tool by the Spirit.
Our Service [ TOP ]
What do we have to offer? Have we discovered the "magic" formula that will transform the North American Church?
In a word, no. God's in charge of transformation, not us. And a quick look through the Gospels shows that Jesus didn't even have a formula for transforming lives. He spoke to Nicodemus differently than the woman at they Sychar well. He chatted with Simon the Pharisee differently than he did Simon Peter. Indeed, if you look for Jesus' model of transformation, you'll be more confused than comforted.
We don't have the magic transformative formula for the church. But what we do have is a heart for seeking and reaching the wanderers and the nomads, and to encourage the pilgrims on their journey. We have a pool of practitioners in the field who are experiencing the joys and the difficulties of being faithful in the North American context. We've been reading and researching and living this great experiment for awhile now and what we have, we're willing to share. You can find the specifics of what we have to offer by checking out our Menu.
Some Definitions [ TOP ]
Church-Without-Walls Alternative: Wherever two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus to be the church. Examples include house churches, family churches, parachurch ministries, office place Bible studies, discipleship accountability partnerships, spiritual friendships, and other "Marketplace Ministries."
House Church: A church that meets in a home or in some other informal setting.
Nomad: Non-practicing Christian believers.
Pilgrims: Practicing Christians, whether a part of a local church or not.
Wanderer: Anyone who is a stranger to the grace of Jesus. Sometimes called the lost, seekers, or strangers to grace.