Hi there, Robert. The whole concept of ANY sort of leadership is anathema to many in the "out of church movement". They would maintain that "Jesus is their pastor". They were selling T-shirts with this slogan, which of course has a profound element of truth.
As for the numbers, I fell out years ago with several "leaders" because they were claiming and publishing that the movement had "tens of millions" of practitioners. And the number was "rapidly multiplying" faster than anything else. This was 15 or 20 years ago.
I just checked the George Barna website, which previously had a whole section of books devoted to "Organic Church". There was nothing on this subject. George "co-authored" Pagan Christianity and wrote another house-church friendly book called Revolution.
For those unfamiliar with his name, he is a noted researcher, pollster, and futurist. Referred to by some as the most quoted Christian. Looks like now he is catering again solely to those in the institutional church which is where the future must lie and definitely where the big money is. Some of his books are around one hundred dollars, by the way. Perhaps they have CD's or additional online content. Seems kinda high. From a guy who wrote extensively about pastors not deserving a salary.
The "Revolution" however never occurred. It was a dud. The built it it - but nobody came. The religious landscape was not altered as we had hoped.
Aside from that, I am quite optimistic about low cost, non-traditional, clergy-less, meet-anywhere churches.
It's certain that some house churches do not want to be noticed. That said, the most frequent email we receive is: Where is a church near me?
Above all: The gates of hell shall not prevail against the true church and its bright future! So let us not be weary in well-doing!0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Being new to the house church movement, I find myself still trying to wrap my brain around it. Having literally been kicked out of my last church for daring to suggest that the elders were operating outside of the scope of the authority granted to them by Christ, I quickly found myself without a home. That's not completely true as I still have friends and family there, but I am not welcome by church leadership if I follow Christ's commands. I agree with your assessment, David, that the church has a bright future. It may not be in this life, but it certainly is in the life to come.
As for the church in the here-and-now, I also agree that we should not be weary in well-doing. It is difficult, however, not to be discouraged in what we see happening in the church today. At one time I had an intense interest in the various denominations that have grown from the early church, but the more I learn about them the more I see sinful, schismatic behavior that goes directly against the commands of our Lord that we live in unity with each other. It seems that every church leader wants to claim that they are the spiritual descendants of Peter so that they can claim the authority. But how many of them first want to confess that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt 16:16)? They want the power. They want the glory. Yet I struggle to see their love for God's people when they drive every wedge possible between themselves and their fellow believers.
As far as the house church movement goes, I have yet to attend even though there is one that meets nearby my home and I have made contact with them. I have read through their extensive writings and find myself in agreement with most of them. One thing holding me back at the moment is that I have tried churches of many kinds in the past and have left each encounter disappointed. So I'm trying not to rush into anything this time around. In some ways I am feeling that it won't be long before the other shoe drops and I find myself disenchanted with the movement. Perhaps this is unfair for me to think like this, but it's where I find myself today nonetheless.
What I'd like to find in real life is what I've found to some degree with this group here, which is to see Christ at the core of every conversation, and the Bible as the ONLY authority. I find great value in creeds and catechisms as learning aids, but not as rules and authoritative sources in the life of the Christian. Why can't my time spent with my fellow Christians be devoted to how Jesus loves us so much as to give his life for us? Or to discover what Scripture says about God's Kingdom (reign) and the pursuit of righteousness? And what of Jesus' promise that "27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:27-28)? Yet for as much as I have come to despite the modern-day Pharisaical practices found in today's institutional churches, I know from experience that I must do more than complain about the old system. There needs to be something for me to work toward. Something beautiful. Something ancient. Indeed, the Ancient of Days.0 0 0 0 0 0 0