Decentralized, home-based church communities are not as uncommon as it seems. In fact, there are thousands of churches who take this type of approach in cities all over the country. The Barna Group did a study that found over 20 million Americans engage in small, decentralized church communities on a regular basis. In some countries, the vast majority of churches are small, decentralized, and home-based. We feel called to this approach because it provides flexible, relational, and accessible faith communities for people who might not otherwise be engaged in a church.
Nothing! Although there really is no “normal” way of doing church. For the last 2000 years, there has never been a time when the church was not changing. Today there are thousands of different Christian denominations that practice many different styles and structures. When people think of “church” they often think of a large public gathering on Sunday morning. But the reality is, every church does a lot more than that. They have different ministries, and many have small group gatherings, community groups, or bible studies that meet throughout the week. All of this is the Church. We have many of those elements, including the large corporate gathering, but what we have done is reprioritized the different elements of the Church to place an emphasis on the small relational gathering in order to better care for our neighborhoods and introduce people to Jesus who might not be interested in the traditional Sunday morning gathering.
Nope! There are various parachurch ministries that exist to organize bible studies, but that is not what we are doing. We are a local expression of the Church that allocates all our time and resources to establishing and multiplying small, organic communities that worship together, pray together, eat meals together, serve their community, and study the God’s Word together. Our dream is to see small faith communities that represent Jesus in every neighborhood of Knoxville.
Hope Church is one unified body of people who are on a journey to follow Jesus. We are a family. We believe that Jesus transforms lives and transforms communities. Any church that is truly serving Jesus does the same. We desire that every person and every neighborhood would be transformed by Jesus. Rather than hoping that people come to us, we feel called to go to them. We believe that the Church is the Church not only when it is gathered, but also when it is scattered. If we were only a church when we gathered together in a large group, then we could only have an impact on people who come into that large gathering. But, if we are just as much the Church when we are scattered in small communities, we can embrace people in a Jesus-centered, life-changing community right where they are at – in a neighbor’s home, local coffee shop, or a common space in an apartment complex. We don’t gather to be the church gathered. We gather in order to be the church scattered.
Our Hope Community leaders gather together twice per month to be trained, equipped, and encouraged. Their job is to care for and disciple the people in their community; and while that involves some teaching, they are more responsible for providing a space for people seek God’s truth for themselves. God has us all on a journey, and though we grow in wisdom and knowledge throughout that journey we never have all the answers. What is most important is that we are all constantly going back to God’s Word ourselves and faithfully and humbly seeking His truth. We encourage people to wrestle with tough questions about God, faith, and the Bible and we never shame people for their questions. We will always do our best to provide the resources and teaching in our corporate gatherings and our Hope Communities to help people all throughout their faith journey.
We welcome anyone who wants to engage in Hope Church at any capacity. Renewal Nights, which happen on the first and third Sunday of every month, are open to anyone who is interested in attending. Although our desire is to see everyone engaged in a small, organic community who can love and serve them uniquely. In our Hope Communities, we try to balance cultivating a safe and intimate community with being open and welcoming for new people to join. Our Hope Community leaders have the authority to determine what aspects of their community is open to those who are testing the waters. In most communities, communion meal, discussion weeks, and serving are always open to anyone. Some may restrict certain elements depending on the unique dynamics of the community. For example, if there is a Hope Community that is made up of people struggling with or recovering from addiction, that community may not be open to new people testing the waters. Especially, if that person has never struggled with addiction. We promise to always provide a space for anyone who desires to be a part of Hope Church.