“I’ve got to meet these people!” I said to myself after reading the old issue of the Cutting Edge Magazine online.
The theme of that particular issue of the Vineyard’s publication for church planters was “Out of the Box Churches”. The issue featured the church led by Dave Nixon and Kevin Raines and their team in Norwood (Cincinnati), Ohio. I was intrigued, to say the least!
Vineyard Central, the name of the church, was begun as a traditional church plant but quickly shifted to a house church network after the fire department condemned the space they were using for Sunday worship services. Now, many years later, the Vineyard Central community continues as a house church network – and more. Their very useful website is at: www.vineyardcentral.com.
You can imagine how excited I was to find that I would be spending 10 days with Dave Nixon as a partner in the Vineyard Pastoral Sabbath Retreat care team this month in Idaho. While there, we managed to carve out some time together to swap some favorite music (I turned him on to Fleet Foxes and he introduced me to recordings of his daughter, Kim, a wonderful singer/songwriter!). We also talked about house church – him being the veteran, and me being the starry-eyed beginner. Here are some excerpts from our discussion:
Bill: What is the current status of house churches at Vineyard Central?
Dave: When I resigned from leading the ministry in 2000 (to take on some other roles within the community), we had ten robust house churches. After eight years, we shrank back to three. Six are being reestablished. House churches live or die by their leadership. Without really good ongoing training and mentoring, they will not sustain. Leaders need to define the culture of the churches. This is critical.
Bill: How and when does everyone come together at once?
Dave: We have tried different rhythms, but currently we meet once a month (Vineyard Central owns St. Elizabeth’s, a historic former Catholic church structure in their neighborhood). Most people – 60% - will come to the monthly festival. We hope to see that number rise. These gatherings are called “festivals” and loosely correspond to the Christian calendar (Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, etc). Each month has a theme such as community, hospitality, neighborhood, and so on.
Bill: How important is it for the house church groups to know their purpose?
Dave: We expect each house church to be the church in all aspects and not just a Bible study or “kinship” group. We ask them to spell out and make explicit the purpose of their group. We are called together to worship, express the values of Christ’s new community – mutual care – and we are emphasizing the missional aspect of each group more. I have told the leaders of the groups: “If you cannot establish a mission as a home church, it questions the validity of its being”.
As a house church (their particular HC is called "Hearth"), we are committed to exploring, identifying, birthing and supporting expressions of hospitality in West Norwood. We might get behind something we didn’t start if it expresses the heart of the Kingdom of God.