"His book is packed full of hyperbolic statements about the woes of the American church and the superiority of house church."

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Bert Perry's picture

The review--and presumably the book--is not exactly summed up in the title of this thread.   Chan came to the conclusion that his experience at the church he founded, which became a megachurch, was not what the New Testament prescribed, and he felt it had become a cult of personality instead of an expression of God's grace.  He then notes that he observed a lot of what he'd hoped to see in the house churches of Asia.

And to be honest, having just visited my brother in California, I can understand Chan's perspective.  Real estate is so expensive that a LOT of workers out there are living in RVs on the streets.  Imagine trying to get land for a church building that will be used 1-2 days per week!

Plus, with due respect to varying eschatological views here, it strikes me that if indeed the church will face increasing persecution, then we'd do well to bring up more elders who are capable of heading a small congregation.  For that matter, even if we get to stay in the buildings we have, wouldn't it be great if we had more people capable of teaching at a pastoral level instead of at a typical Sunday School level?  If we had clear models of Christian life?  

The trick is how we get there when so many believers cannot afford to take a few years off for seminary.  To me, that's probably the big gap in Asia--or maybe in a lot of places, it isn't.  Might be worth my time to interact more with people from the Chinese church that meets in my church's building to see how they make it work.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Really appreciated the evaluation in this review.  Well done.

Barna, as I recall, went that same route.  If the church needs to get rid of all its leaders, and if Chan was a big name leader, why is he leading the home church movement?  He must not count.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

Ed, my take here is that what Chan did was observe, rightly or wrongly, that his church celebrated him instead of Christ, and that instead of continuing on the "gravy train" of huge royalty payments and paychecks, he voluntarily demoted himself to "just a guy who could be a good example."  

Or, put another way, Chan might agree with you that he doesn't count, and that he doesn't want to "lead" the movement at all as much as he wants to "inspire" it.  Kinda like this Babylon Bee account.

Obviously I'm putting a positive spin on what he says he's trying to do, and time will tell how it works out.  For my part--and I write as one familiar with a number of house churches around my area--the big question is whether these house churches do well at finding and training elders.  Time will tell, and paczki and kolacky are on me whether I'm right or wrong.  :^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

CAWatson's picture

(The following statements come from working more than 5 years as a youth minister in a Chinese church in the US)

1. Asian parents (and especially Chinese) think that children heading directly into ministry are stupid and failures. Your smartest kid should be a doctor. Your second smartest kid should be an engineer. The stupid child can go into ministry. 

2. Successful individuals in the secular world can go to seminary and ministry later in life. They have wealth, experience, intelligence, and degrees, and thus they have something to teach us when they learn the Bible. 

3. Chinese people in America still hold the farmer vs scholar belief held over from Confucianism. In America, the difference is between the successful Chinese individual, and the "restaurant or laundry worker." (I was actually told by a Chinese pastor when I asked how the church would reach out to the Chinese restaurant workers in the area who can't go to church on Sunday morning because they were working that, "Our goal is to reach Chinese intellectuals, not restaurant workers.")

4. From what I was told by the pastor and other pastors (and knowing the general state of Chinese churches in MN), around half of all Chinese churches do not have a pastor. They simply cannot get enough qualified men who know the language to pastor the churches. And they generally do not create a pastoral pipeline (no one goes to Bible college - they go to seminary later in life). 

Again, this comes from my experience with Chinese churches in the States. Chinese churches in China are a different issue all together due to both culture and persecution. 

Bert Perry's picture

It's not as extensive as brother Watson's experience, but I've attended a mostly Chinese church for two summers, and my current church hosts a Chinese church.  Also, my first church hosted a Korean church.  So I largely concur with his observations, and I'd add that there are significant cultural differences between Chinese-Americans from the People's Republic, from Taiwan and the rest of the Chinese diaspora, and "ABCs" or "American-born-Chinese."  Really all east Asians, in my view.

Overall, my take is that yes, traditional Asian culture does impose some difficulties in the same way that traditional European/Anglo/American culture imposes others, but I am yet confronted with the fact that our brothers in Asia are somehow making something work where governments are oppressive and real estate is unavailable.  We need to view it in light of the Fundamentals, the Solas, the Trinity, and more, but the explosive growth and resilience of the church in Asia says we just might have a lot to learn from them. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Bert said:

 Time will tell, and paczki and kolacky are on me whether I'm right or wrong.  :^)

You know how to persuade me!  Especially kolacky.  To those of you who have never enjoyed a kolacky (co - lotch - key), you have yet to live.  Find out more HERE.  As far a jelly doughnuts (paczki), [punch key] they are pretty good, but not a competitor IMO.

I do agree with you that we have a lot to learn from the Asian Christians.  I am not opposed to house churches, and I would not be surprised if the day came in our land when the only solid churches were house churches.  But we are not there yet, so let these guys work out the kinks for future generations.

I do think, however, that solid theological training and professional (sorry John Piper) pastoral training have an important role in our day (I like the shepherd-scholar model), and are a blessing to the church.  In my area, many of the pastors are not trained, and some churches hold contempt for the idea of training.  But that is a different discussion.

I would like to put my two-cents in for interpreting Scripture in light of the Jewish backgrounds and cultures of the first century.  Rabbis, for example, were highly trained (memorized entire OT and part of the Talmud), but supported themselves.  I suspect that the very early church leaders were quite fluent in the Scriptures they had. (2 Tim. 2:2), and they took being taught the Word so seriously that one fellow even died (temporarily) from an overdose of it (Acts 20:7-12)

7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. 9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.”11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"