Hullo friends. Its been a few months. I thought I would tell you about something really cool I have coming up:
Eternal Purpose 2005: Revolution Is Not Enough! conference with Gene Edwards at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina! About a dozen of us plan to move there in spring of 2006, to form an intentional home church community there. Whether you’re looking for open, particpatory community life, or just want to hang out with some great people for a weekend, you should come. Deep intimacy with God in Christ, and the practical side of being a counter-cultural, communal people, will be the focus of our time together.
Go to Epurpose.org to find out all the details and register:
A Conference with Gene Edwards
Gene Edwards graduated from college at age eighteen. He then attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and graduated from there at age twenty-two. He holds a Master of Divinity. He left the institutional church at age twenty-nine. Today, he is part of the radical wing of the house church movement. He also holds conferences on the deeper Christian life. His life is geared towards a revolution of the present-day practices of the church. Gene will be working with us in establishing our intentional house church community in Durham.
“We cannot change the practices of the church. Those practices can only be abandoned. We have to start over . . . from the ground up.”
Gene Edwards is a prolific writer. Some of his books include: The First-Century Diaries,The Prisoner in the Third Cell, A Tale of Three Kings, The Divine Romance, The Chronicles of Heaven, and How to Meet in Homes. If you have not read a book by Gene Edwards, you may want to drop by your Christian bookstore, or check out some of his harder to find works on the Seedsowers website.
Over the past ten years, surveys have indicated that approximately 50% of Christians who describe themselves as “born again” or “evangelical” have stopped attending a traditional church. Of those, 90% of people were in some sort of leadership role. Almost 33% of these were former pastors! It is estimated that in the year 2000, 95-100 million Christians stayed home from “church.”
Some reasons Christians quit going to church:
- Had a bad experience in the past
- Worship services are boring
- Want a deeper connection with their faith
- Want to participate in a community of faith
- The church had nothing to offer, so no reason to go
- Many do not see a need to get involved
- Do not believe in organized religion
- Not interested in being a part of an institution
- Do not like to be preached at
- Think the Bible is an outdated book of rules
What some of those stay-at-home Christians do:
- One half pray to God during the week
- Three out of ten have a devotional time each week
- One out of seven read the Bible during the week
- One out of ten have a spiritual mentor
- Three out of ten watch religious television
- One out of ten purchase Christian music
- One out of four listen to Christian radio
- One out of five read a Christian magazine
What Christians who stay at home want!
- A friendly, caring environment
- Want to feel connected with people
- Prefer a small gathering, instead of a megachurch
- Want to participate in ministry
- A desire to deepen their faith
- Want informal services
- To be received with Christian love
These are seven good reasons to attend the Durham conference.
Gene Edwards is currently working on two books. To get a special sneak preview of these books, go to his website.
Click on Radical Books. Then enter manuscripts for the username and durham for the password.
Update: The weekend was wonderful. Oddly enough, you can read a news article on it here:
|House Church Pioneer Encourages Young Adults In House Church Movement in Durham, NC|
By Steve Eastman
Gene Edwards organized the Revolution is Not Enough house church conference to serve the twin purposes of feeding the hunger of Christians wanting something more and preparing for a church plant in one of North Carolina’s major cities. It was held at Duke Divinity School on Memorial Day weekend.
The on-line invitation read, “If you are pleased with the church you attend on Sunday mornings…this conference is not for you. But, if you are not pleased with Sunday-as-usual church and you are looking for something that reflects the joy and fellowship of Christians who were part of the church…first-century style, then by all means you will want to be in Durham.” (Photo Gene Edwards)
The conference attracted close to 80 people, including 12 to 15 current students and recent graduates of Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia. They plan on starting a house church within the next several months, although some may not move to town immediately. Many of the conference attendees flew in from house churches affiliated with Edwards in Jacksonville, Florida and other cities. Most of the rest are residents of nearby parts of North Carolina or were attracted by his appearance on Benny Hinn’s TV show, This Is Your Day!
A real Philadelphia lawyer, made a case for why we should do house church. David O’Connor, a long-time associate of Edwards, said the problem we’re left with today is the domestication of Christianity. “When you take something wild and free, as she, the church, is meant to be, and make it human and make it about humans and for humans and that’s a lot of what our practice of Christianity has become.” He says that can involve things that are not bad in themselves. “We become more concerned about meeting human needs and more concerned about reaching out to humans instead of satisfying the Lord’s desire for our fellowship and time and attention.”
O’Connor says the practice of traditional Christianity has made us like animals in a zoo. “We only get fed when someone else decides to feed us. We only eat when we’re told we can eat. Where we’re allowed to go and wander and explore is quite limited. We’ve limited what it means to know and explore and understand the Lord.”
O’Connor compares a Christian in a house church to an animal in its natural environment. “Like an animal in the wild, we as Christians have an instinct, an instinct where we can wander and know the Lord and discover the Lord in ways that are well beyond that which we experience in the (traditional) church.”
O’Connor admits the struggle against religion has a life-long component. “But in the context of a group of people that have decided to leave the ordinary, organized practice of Christianity behind and discover Him more organically together, that discovery is exciting.”
That theme of being set free resonated with a young woman in the audience, Tricia Speiser, of Defiance, Ohio. “I’m not involved in the organized church because I was raised in the freedom of the church and to go back to the organized church, my spirit would have to shrink.” Speiser, who’s married to a preacher’s kid, says they make a great catch for young ladies in the house church movement. “Most of them are disillusioned with the organized church from growing up and seeing what they perceive as the hypocrisy of a preacher. Preachers are just human people and they’re not perfect, but it’s perceived that they should be.”
To put it simply, the conference was a demonstration of what house church could be. Part of that was having fun in a holy way. Following in the footsteps of Martin Luther, who wrote Christian lyrics to secular songs sung in the beer halls of his day, the Edwards conference featured Christian lyrics set to Broadway and movie songs. For example, the following verses were sung to the tune of “Oh What a Beautiful morning” and described Christ and His bride, the church:
Oh, what a beautiful woman. (Brothers)
The overall mood was joy and deep appreciation for the bridegroom/bride relationship between Christ and the church. Although it may be difficult to imagine spontaneity and interaction in a group this size, a good deal of the house church atmosphere was present. In the give and take of a question and answer session, someone asked Edwards how to identify elders in the church. He replied, “Ask the sisters in the church who are the two or three brothers you trust the most?” Edwards explained those would be his choices for elders. He said he would ask again in two or three years because he did not see elder as a permanent position. Edwards also admitted he wasn’t enthusiastic about using the title. “Elders exist organically if the church is organic. Why destroy them with a title?”
The second aspect of the house church conference, preparing the young people for the move to Durham, involved house hunting, soliciting job leads, and fatherly advice from Edwards. “Live your dream. In case one person gets here and drops out, don’t be discouraged. You’re going to have dry spells. Never think the dry spells are the future. This above all–Don’t be a clique. You embrace everyone who comes in.”
Youth Blaze a Trail To A New Concept in Durham, NC
By Sheryl Eastman
Mike Morrell and Jasmin Pittman got engaged this past weekend, May 27, 2005, on the Duke University School of Divinity campus. Mike is a native of Georgia, and Jasmin is from the DC area of Virginia. They met about eight years ago at Berry College, a private liberal arts college in Mount Berry, Georgia. Mike has now graduated from Berry with a degree in Journalism, and Jasmin is just finishing up her degree in English. So why did they get engaged in Durham? And what were they doing there?
Joelle Lainge was in Durham this past weekend too. She is a beautiful, single girl who graduated from Berry College about a year and a half ago with an Environmental Science degree. She has since launched her career with a prominent firm in Flagstaff, AZ. She loves her new life, her new community, and her promising new career. However, she is currently making plans to give it all up. She has begun preliminary preparations to leave it all behind, and move to a place she had never been before this weekend. What is motivating her to do this?
Deb and John Cornett were in Durham this weekend too; they also attended Berry College. They are newlyweds of only three months, and are living in Littleton, CO Deb’s hometown. John has a degree in Computer Science, and is employed as a Marketing Programmer. Deb has lived in Littleton all her life and loves the area; she specifically said she never wanted to leave there and never wanted to leave her parents and family. Yet they are now making plans to leave family behind and move to a place that was totally unknown to them before this weekend.
These are merely a few of the 15 young people now making preparations to move to Durham, North Carolina from all parts of the country. Their common thread appears to be that they all attended Berry College. However, something more powerful brought them together, and something more compelling is motivating them all to make monumental changes in each of their lives.
This group of young people consists of Christians who began to gather together on the Berry College campus not in a typical church setting to talk about the things of God and to praise Him together. The fellowship became their church. The Spirit of God was in that group; they flourished and grew, numbering close to fifty at one time, and kinship was formed that will last a lifetime with each of these young people. They talked about life after graduation and where they would all end up. They weren’t sure at the time, but they knew they didn’t want to give up what God had brought together in their group. They talked of the possibility of all 15 of the core group moving somewhere together. They would be starting new lives and careers; more importantly, they would be bringing the church to this new location. Their intention was to keep the church intact, but they also wanted to see it grow. A church plant … a house church plant … it sounded radical to think it would actually happen. Could this possibly work? And where would they go?
They enlisted the advice of Gene Edwards, well-known preacher, author, speaker, and house church planter. Although he did not give them his opinion of the one place he’d like to see them go, Edwards did meet with the group and gave his recommendations for three places across the country that he thought would be a suitable location for the group to consider. According to Mike Morrell, Edwards based his recommendations “on very practical things. Gene normally bases it (these decisions) on large population settings because he would like to see the churches grow … also, the availability for people to get jobs. Obviously, when you’re following the American dream, you’ll go anywhere in the country to find work. But that’s not what we’re about. At the same time, Gene knows that there are people with wives, family; they need to eke out some kind of a living … the Raleigh/Durham area seemed like it was tops on that list.”
Now, after many months of discussing the idea, the group met together at a Gene Edwards conference this past weekend in Durham. They had a chance to see their new community, hear what they could expect in their endeavor from someone who had done something like this before (Edwards), and to be commissioned and encouraged in their venture. They and all who attended the conference heard great insights and beneficial tips on the merits of house church and how to conduct such a gathering.
The wheels are now in motion. The young people won’t all arrive at the same time, but over the course of the next few months, each of the group will be making their moves and joining the others in their new community. Some will begin new jobs; some will begin new careers, and some will begin graduate school at a local university. They will be starting the church under the tutelage of Gene Edwards. The church will welcome anyone, but they especially want to minister to those who “feel like they’ve flunked out of Christianity … people who don’t feel like they ‘fit in’ anywhere else … people who are hungry to meet the Lord in a new and different way” according to Morrell.
When asked what specifically is motivating them and compelling them to this huge undertaking, Joelle Lainge responded, “Now that I’ve been away from the church for a year and a half, and I’ve tried to experience the Lord apart from all of this, I’ve just been ‘dry.’ Simply, the one and only thing that is compelling me is I want to be with my Lord. Christ is ‘it.’ And if it means being one of many people, which apparently it means, then that’s where I am because it’s Him that I want.”
None of the 15 has ever done anything like this before. None has taken any classes or training to start a new church. None know quite what to expect. However, as Joelle stated, “I might not know what I’m getting into to, but I’ve had a small taste of it. And the fact that what I’ve experienced (with the church so far) IS only a small taste is just beyond my comprehension.” These young people are seeking God for all they’re worth. They will go anywhere they feel He would want them to go even to Durham, NC. And they will do anything they believe He would want them to do even being revolutionary and starting a brand new house church!
For information about Gene Edwards and his ministry, log onto www.geneedwards.com.
Edited by News Room on 05/31/2005 at 5:58pm
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