Dan Kimball offers an interesting "Reality Check" on his blog, Vintage Faith, that describes 10 stages from traditional church to house church back to traditional church. It's a bit of a downer (perhaps that's what a reality check is about) but it provides some useful insight and markers. For example, he describes this "house church stage" reality check:
Eventually we find the same disappointments in the smaller house church that we did in the bigger programmed church, but at a different level. We get even more disillusioned, as we realize that even the key leaders (including ourselves) and the people of the house church are just as messed up as the big church leaders and people in those churches.
He goes on to suggest that we may find ourselves going from house church to no church back to some acceptance of traditional church life. I have no problem if people walk through all of these stages, but I certainly do not believe that the cycle back to traditional church is natural nor inevitable.
Now WAIT. If you DO head off right now to read the rest of Kimball's article, I want to encourage you to come back here.
Because I want to mention an article written by Alan Creech called "Even Though." He expresses my heart (and, I think, an important perspective) very well when he says:
"Even though it's not totally what it should be, I'm not willing to give up on it" - referring to our community, our "church" Vine & Branches...
So, I could look at the experience of the people involved in our community, including my own, and say something like, "we still don't have the level of 'community' we need to have" or "are we still just 'going to church' but on Tuesday nights?" Many of you probably know what I mean. I think we get weary of this. And I think we sometimes want to buckle under to the weight of the weariness and shut it down and either start over or go back to something else. I was saying to my friend that I see all this, but that I'm willing to live with the tension. I'm willing to live with the tension of what I see that we could or should be as opposed to what we are. No, we're not what I fully envisioned us being. Sometimes that's deeply disappointing to me and very discouraging. I said that I was, and I am, willing to live with that, because it is, for all it's flaws, better than anything else I've experienced. I speak for myself...
So, I will keep doing this.
And that is where I am at. Even though my experience with house churches and networks are not causing me to shout "We have made it," and even though we constantly deal with all of the relationship stuff, the messy stuff, the grungy stuff that goes with smaller community life, for me personally, it's still better than the alternatives. I will also keep doing this.