column 3 for the christian herald:
Seven to ten people meet in the home of Darren and Vanessa Rowse in Melbourne. Over a vegetarian meal they share stories and reflect on the week. They might read the bible or have a creative worship experience together, then pray and have dessert. They exist to be missional – i.e. to share Jesus with one another and friends they naturally relate with. Their venture is called Living Room. Communities like this are springing up all over the place in Australia. Floods of people have intentionally left established churches to launch similar ventures.
CMS recently hosted a UK tour with Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, authors of the excellent book The Shaping Of Things To Come to try and learn from the experience downunder. They told a wonderful story of someone who gave up on church to go water ski-ing. Partly because of their own guilt they asked the friends they were with if they minded if they prayed and read the bible together. A few answers to prayer later and the friends wanted the prayer to continue and along with the water ski-ing and bbq it became an integral feature of Sunday mornings. The guy who left church found himself unwittingly leading an emerging church!
Alan is the director of Forge in Melbourne which networks and trains missional leaders who need a very different skill set and way of being trained to say a pastor/teacher in a more traditional church. They make a very simple but powerful critique that most types of church run along attractional lines – that is we expect people to come to us. They advocate a reversal of this by developing missional communities that are simple and go where people already are, whether in homes, a local arts café, or a pub. The Aussies are ahead of us in this and we have lots to learn from them.
In the UK a similar movement is beginning. These churches are small, fluid, organic, simple and reproducible. Alexander Campbell is collecting stories of what is happening among these new groups. It is actually very difficult to track this kind of mission movement. It goes under the radar evading the usual measures of counting church attendance and growth. The church in places like China where it has been persecuted has of course had to function in this sort of way for years (with astonishing growth). This movement is another exciting front of the emerging church.
See http://www.livingroom.org.au/home.php for Living Room web sites and http://www.livingroom.org.au/blog/ for Darren’s blog
See http://www.forge.org.au for Forge web site
See http://www.simplechurch.co.uk for Alexander Campbell’s site tracking UK simple churches.