I am at the Denver House Church Conference and just heard Barna share some of his latest statistics on "alternative models of faith communities" in the U.S. Some of you will appreciate this since several of you wondered out loud (i.e. in comments) at the large number of people he stated were attending house churches.
In fact, his previous statistic (20 million Christians involved in house church) changed a bit when he asked the question about house church involvement with a bit more clarification by adding the phrase "and consider this home-gathering to be a complete church on its own." This phrase dropped the number of people attending house churches to about 5 million people. Furthermore, at least 6 out of 10 people who are involved in a house church by this definition continue to attend a conventional church and consider the conventional church to be their primary church.
Okay... now the statistics start to match experience. Many people are, in fact, exploring alternative faith communities and the numbers are growing. However we are still dealing with a movement that is in infancy stage... which I see as a good thing as God continues to mold and shape it and we don't yet see the handprints of man's programs all over it.
Nevertheless, he still considers the movement a revolution that will continue to change the church landscape over the next few years.
Some additional interesting facts about those involved in house church:
- It is more prevalent among young people (which is one reason Barna expects the movement to grow--it fits their longing for authenticity and belonging)
- It is more prevalent in the south
- It is more prevalent among home-schoolers
He also reports that there is a high level of satisfaction with spiritual depth and connectedness among those involved in house church (higher than those attending conventional churches).
Barna himself is involved in house church because of his awareness that the calling of God upon the church is to see transformed lives. He believes that this can only take place one person at a time in a relational context. He sees house church/ simple church as an ideal setting for transformation that leads to biblical revolution and impact-the-culture living.
Perhaps Barna's most profound challenge to the house church movement (and any church expression willing to listen) is that we are still not emphasizing sufficiently the importance of children. "The war is often won or lost by the age of 13." An important point... perhaps something to ponder more on a future post.
I will try to share on other conference sessions over the weekend as soon as possible.