Giving Up on George Barna?
In a conversation with a friend recently, he read that George Barna (my neighbor in Ventura) is "giving up on the organized church" and instead opting for house-churches. I understand that, if it's true. The local, organized, denominationally affiliated church is full of problems, slow to move and full of pretty strange people. It's cluttered with committees and its pastors are always flying off to some denominational or conference task force that has very little to do with people back home. Back home, parking lot discussions often get heated about new furnishings or why kitchen cutlery was rearranged without proper authorization. Parts of the sanctuary are too cold, too hot, and too dark to sing. It's hard to get folks to serve refreshments after church and the ones whose kids eat the most seldom step forward to help. Oh yeah, I get it. There are times I'd like to walk straight away as well from honking sound of angry ducks, nipping at my legs.
But then, who would visit a grandmother in the hospital facing surgery? Who would teach the squirmy 13 year old about Israel learning to trust God in the wilderness journey? Who would lead a Bible study for hungry adults? Who would participate in a World Vision program to send out 1,000 care kits to care givers of AIDS patients in Jesus' name? Who would have a cup of coffee with a college student pondering their future or an adult jjust coming to terms with their alcoholism?
I know house churches are intimate and informal, freed of larger bureacracy. But they can also be elitist, invitation only. They propbably don't span as wide a generational bridge as the local church does. And the cool thing about the frumpy local church is that when a person who has given up on the local church needs a hospital visit or care for a dying relative....We're here. We don't give up.
I do not mean to besmerch George Barna in any way. Maybe he has not given up on the local church. But I know those who have for all the reasons I've mentioned. Maybe part of my reaction is as a practioner in the trench to ivory tower speculators, who analyze numbers, spot trends and make predictions. We need them (you), but I wish you'd spend more times in pastors' shoes and catch the toughness of the call and the adventure in the ordinary.