Barefoot in the Church
In doing my work for Elevate Detroit, Mike gave me a couple books to read up on that were inspirational in the formation and work of Elevate. Several of them I had read before, which should be no surprise since Mike and I have very similar feelings about the poverty, community that the Christian response to those things.
One of the books however is a book called Barefoot in the Church. You probably haven’t heard of it, and as of this writing if you google it, you will only find one link on the first pages that has anything to do with this book at all.
Barefoot was written by Donald R. Allen. It is the story of a house church that started in the late 1950s, written nostalgically from 1972. Allen not only examines this specific community, but discusses aspects of many intentional communities and house churches that he visited across the country while researching this book.
His community, Trinity, was started by a local established church in hopes that a new expression of church would draw in people who were otherwise uncomfortable with established churches, and it seems to have worked. Barefoot speaks to the need to have a variety of church styles to reach a variety of people. This means we need big church, small church, old church, young church, seeker church, scholar church, house church, organized church spontaneous church, etc to reach people who respond best to those genres of community.
This is, of course, at odds with most “house church” movements I have seen or been involved in. Typically they are much less interested in reaching new people and just more interested in coming over to a friends house in their pajamas to bitch about church and think they are cool because they call it church. Real house churches don’t see themselves at odds with larger churches, they see themselves as a different expression of the same reality.
I will leave you with one of the early quotes from the book about the unique challenges of house churches today”
“Ancient house churches sought to grow in virgin soil, the house church of today must rediscover roots in an overworked ground.”