It must be nothing but confusing for anyone who comes to America – who practices a religion other than Christianity – when they notice how many churches there are on any given street, ALL of which consider themselves to be Christian. According to American Church Lists, there are 386,000 churches in the USA alone.
While the Church is thriving, amidst persecution, in third world nations, here in America the traditional, local church no longer ranks as the only place to go as the Christian’s primary meeting place. Millions of people claim they are drawing closer to God but farther from any involvement with traditional churches. What’s happening? According to California Researchers called the Barna Group, “…new ways of experiencing and expressing faith, such as through house churches, marketplace ministries, and cyberchurches, are becoming the norm for millions of people.”
A new book by the group’s founder, George Barna, entitled Revolution, indicates that since the turn of the millennium there have been major changes occurring in how people experience and express their faith. Based on a series of national surveys conducted by his company during the past 25 years, Barna discovered that discontent with congregational churches, changes in lifestyles, and a gowing desire to get closer to God, have caused many people to seek new ways to felowship with God and with other God-seeking people.
In the year 2000, most of America’s Christian activity took place by way of local churches. Today, in 2005, during a typical week, 9% of all adults attend a house church. An even greater proportion (22%) engages in spiritual encounters that take place in the marketplace (e.g., with groups of people while they are at their Louvores de Adoração place of work or play, or in other typical daily contexts). The Internet serves as the foundation for interactive faith experiences for more than one out of every ten adults. Personally, though I attend house churches, have held high school Bible studies for over a year in a hair studio and the past three years have led a college Bible Study in a local coffee shop. In recent months I have preached twice at a Disciples of Christ Church, and have taught Sunday School at the local Methodist Church for a month of Sundays. Just yesterday, the Pastor of the local Cowboy Church asked if I’d be interested in teaching a cults class on a Thursday which he would open up to the entire community and, just this morning, I was invited to take part in an outreach with a Baptist College in Oregon. In each instance, according to the examples set by the Apostle Paul in Acts Chapter 16 with Lydia at “First Riverside Church” and with the Jailer at “Slammer Assembly of God,” these gatherings are nothing less than THE Church in all its fullness, never intended to be a mere bolt-on program for the REAL Church.