New Faithful Practice Away From Churches
Some Say 20 Million Participate In Emerging Church Movement
(CBS) CHICAGO Many theologians believe the Emerging Church Movement is the fastest growing group in Christianity. It has no national organization or coordination, so it's almost impossible to know just how big it is.
Some estimates say there are 20 million of these new faithful in the U.S. alone -- that's more than Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Mormons put together.
CBS 2's Antonio Mora investigates whether it is the next big thing in religion.
"You are who you are supposed to be in front of Christ. It's not fake," said Bonnie Mobley.
Mobley grew up Episcopalian. Her way of worshipping has changed dramatically.
Ashley Hodges is an Evangelical who got tired of feeling isolated at a mega-church.
"You really get to know each other and you grow together," Hodges said.
And Evangelical David Verdin wanted something more laid back.
"It's really simple and you don't have come in with this religious pompous attitude," Verdin said.
Now, they are all members of what�s called the Emerging Church Movement�an unconventional and unstructured road to religion.
Scot McKnight is a theologian at North Park University.
�They meet in coffee shops, homes, cafes, some of them in basements of churches, some of them in pubs, in bars. They meet in any spot that will house their kind of movement,� he said.
"I often joke that we are a disorganized religion as opposed to organized religion. There is an element of the Emerging Church Movement as a whole being a response to kinda the whole corporate CEO style of Christanity," said Pastor John Pennington of the Chicagoland Community Church.
The Emerging Church Movement is made up mostly of members of generations X and Y, but these soul-searchers feel like something out of the sixties, the decade that defined their baby boomer parents. Ironically, they're rebelling against the churches boomers fill every Sunday.
"The idea of the american dream of having a big bank account and large cars and houses isn't appealing,� said Geoff Hosclaw of the Life on the Vine Church.
"It's not about how I can have a better life or get more of what I want. It's about joining the historical mission of Jesus Christ in the world,� said David Fitch of Northern Seminary.
It�s a simple approach to Christianity that focuses on intimacy, relationships, and personal involvement in the community.
At one church, members actively participate in outreach programs for runaway teens and the homeless.
"It's really not a rebellion so much as it's just finding a new set of answers, a different way of being Christians,� said Pastor Mike Clawson of the Christus Community Church.
"I think it's a new reformation. I think it's a new way of looking at the Bible,� said Pastor Julie Clawson.
But is this church movement the future or a passing fad?
"I don't think it's simply a fad,� said McKnight. �I don't think it's the future of all Christians. I think it is a movement that will have an impact on all churches in the United States.�
"I hope it will fly because I think the church needs to evolve and it needs to change if it's going to survive," said Mike Clawson.
Many of the mega-churches have taken note of the emerging church movement. Willow Creek has long had small group ministries, but it has recently increased their focus on community involvement.
But many traditional religious leaders are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
House churches and cell churches have only thrived in the long run in places where religion is persecuted.