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I’m really impressed with Willow Creek and their desire to keep
themselves honest. I know there has been criticism that the Reveal
study is just another marketing ploy, but read the post below from Bill
Donahue on the Group Life blog, and enjoy the refreshing honesty with
what is happening in the church regarding small groups.

Of course, living in the suburbs I’m interested in what this looks like in my context.

The Emerging Church and Small Groups: What does the future hold? (Part 2)From Bill Donahue

House churches, neo-monastic communities, ministry teams, small groups, and neighborhood gatherings, and missional communities are all examples of the Church becoming increasingly communal as it becomes increasingly mission-focused. This emphasis among emerging church adherents is refreshing, many of whom are 18–35, though not limited to that age. Less interested in building churches, emerging church leaders strive first to become the church, seeking a dynamic and fluid communal life centered in the places where people work and live. Being the church is essential—that means serving neighbors, a presence in the community and a desire to live in proximity to those not affiliated with a church.

Group life in this emerging environment is more organic and less programmatic. But nonetheless, small groups of people—gathered for prayer, study, service, “hanging out” at the coffee shop—are central to the way of life espoused by these various communities.

As I speak with emerging leaders and communal architects, it is clear that smaller groups and expressions of community are essential to their mission. Just this week I met with a number of leaders. Some are moving into apartments, starting a small core community of 5-7, and beginning to connect with others. The goal is to become the church in that space, and then to replicate that. One leader envisioned an area of apartments and rental properties filled with such groups, describing it as “missional acupuncture.” He targets these areas because here in Chicagoland, over 40% of people live in such areas and less than 5% of churches have any ministry there. These are dense, small areas, ideal for starting missional groups and communities that embrace the value of small groups but have a more organic fluidity because of relational proximity and density.

In suburban culture, there is a great desire to connect and recover a communal life lost during the fragmentation of the modern era. As a result, neighborhood gatherings are beginning to become the hub of community life, spawning small groups, short-term learning communities, serving teams and a variety of ad hoc gatherings. While some house churches are larger (40–60) many new house church movements have 9–12 people per church, and intentionally reproduce if the group gets much larger. Reaching people where they live requires a model that is flexible and easily reproducible, void of the constraints of traveling to a church building across town.

Willow Creek Association Group Life: The Emerging Church and Small Groups: What does the future hold? (Part 2)

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One Comment

  1. The reason Bill Hybels and Willow Creek have been setting the standard for the rest of us for decades is their almost ruthless honesty and willingness to critique their principles and programs more than anyone else’s. He, and they, set an example of humility and honest that more of us need to follow.

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