It’s been four years since the first Japan House Church Conference in Osaka, and much has changed in those four years. As I sit and reflect on the wonderful experience of the past three days, of sharing, praying and listening to God together with fifty other house church leaders from all over Japan, I think the main impression I am taking away tonight is of a movement which is still young and dynamic, but is also growing in confidence and finding its own voice. Read more about Japan House Church Conference - Reflections
There are plenty of “things you poor sad people in the institutional churches have to cope with that we enlightened bodies in the house churches are free from” articles out there. (oh, look, here’s another one, including the obligatory snipe at “Churchianity”. Urgh.) I’m not really a big fan of that; I love the Church, whatever model of church it may be; I think no part of the Church can say that it’s the best part of the Church; and I think we work best when we work together. Read more about Five things I miss about institutional church
I’ll say this about current organic/simple/house church proponents: they certainly understand the value of a good story. They’re excellent at finding words and pictures to express what they’re doing and why it’s good. But a metaphor is, by definition, not the truth but something that stands for the truth. Read more about House church metaphors and narratives
I see myself as a critical friend to the whole organic/simple/house church world.
A friend, certainly: I spent a lot of time studying and documenting it, translating books about it, and putting it into practice. My community here in Gloucester is seeking to live out that life. It’s also how we will be planting churches back in Japan. I speak from a place of commitment.
But a critical friend. I’m doing this because I think it’s the best way to spread the Gospel in Japan, not because I believe some of the more outlandish claims of proponents. I really don’t think it’s the One True Way to be church. Read more about Where did the organic church come from?
OK, here’s a question. Over in my Wide Margin guise I have just published what I think is a wonderful book. It’s a discipleship and church planting manual from the house church in Japan, and I think it can and should benefit quite a wide audience. I’ve tried a number of ways to promote it so far, but I’m sure there’s more I can be doing, so I want to try asking the audience: Read more about Great book, but how to spread the word?
As a former computational linguistics geek I feel ashamed at how long it’s taken me to make this connection.
Zipf’s Law states that rank-frequency curves follow a power-law distribution. In other words, the most common distribution of stuff goes like this: a small number of very big things, a medium-sized number of medium-sized things, and a lot of small things.
Does this distribution apply to our churches, and what does it mean for the house church? Read more about Zipf's law and house churches
So, you don’t want to wade through the 80-odd pages of my dissertation. That’s fine; unless you particularly get off on academic prose, I can understand that. Here’s a kinder, gentler version. Read more about Japanese house church leadership - summary
Well, my dissertation is now submitted and can’t be changed, so I am happy to publish it here as well. (Facebook readers will have to click through to my blog to read the paper.) Read more about Leadership in the Japanese house church
Here’s how the dissertation ends (at the moment), applying what’s happening in house churches in Japan to… well, us.
Finally, do the Japanese house churches have anything to say to church government outside of Japan? I believe that they do.
Great quote from Niebuhr on the origin of denominations. The house church will not escape the routinization of charisma, because everyone systematizes in the end:
By its very nature, the sectarian type of organization is valid only for one generation. The children born to the voluntary members of the first generation begin to make the sect a church long before they have arrived at the years of discretion. For with their coming the sect must take on the character of an educational and disciplinary institution, with the purpose of bringing the new generation into conformity with the ideals and customs which have become traditional. Rarely does a second generation hold the convictions it has inherited with a fervor equal to that of its fathers, who fashioned these convictions in the heat of conflict and at the risk of martyrdom. As generation succeeds generation, the isolation of the community from the world becomes more difficult… Compromise begins and the ehics of the sect approach the churchly type of morals. As with the ethics, so with the doctrine, so also with the administration of religion. An official clergy, theologically educated and schooled in the refinements of ritual, takes the place of lay leadership; easily imparted creeds are substituted for the difficult enthusiasms of the pioneers; children are born into the group and infant baptism or dedication becomes once more a means of grace. So the sect becomes a church.