The current installment of the COEC began meeting in 2007.

We are currently on a "break," for no particular reason, and many little reasons - mostly pertaining to life circumstances. If anyone is interested in calling a meeting, feel free to post on the blog, join the google group (see link below) and send an email, or contact either Nancy (nancykj10@yahoo.com) or Jesse (schroeder.jesse@gmail.com) for more information.

To receive cohort emails, join our Google group.


Show of Hands

First of all, let us apologize for the length of this post. The amount of things to say perhaps pushes us over blogging etiquette, but so be it.

The purpose of this post is to determine if there is interest in forming a more committed and serious Columbus cohort that could potentially, for those that so desired, serve the function of a church. Just to keep things in order, we’re going to post why we think this might be needed and how it might look.

Why do this? – There are a few reasons that we see, resting primarily on a lack of this type of institution in the Columbus area. We feel that there is a portion of the population that the Emergent movement could speak to particularly well and demonstrate the love of Jesus. There are many, many churches in the area that serve other slices of this city’s population, contain a congregation that is experiencing spiritual growth, and are reaching out to some sort of local “mission field.” However, we have not yet found a place that seems both spiritually alive and doesn’t consider emergent ideas heretical. We have not found anything like this in the area, although admittedly we have not looked everywhere. Also, many of our own lost or disenfranchised friends would have great difficulty searching for God in the church options this area currently provides. It seems, though, that many of these people might feel open and curious in an emerging-church environment. We can get more specific if people would like, but we suspect that other people have experienced similar things as well. That being said I (Nick speaking) regularly receive emails from people asking, “where are the emergent churches in Columbus?” I have to respond that there aren’t really any, but here are some churches that we know of that emergent-ers seem to find tolerable, and then end by welcoming them to attend one of our discussion groups. I believe that there is a strong demand for a church that is built on emergent ideas in the community and although we would begin very small, we could soon grow in number.

All that being said we do not necessarily believe a “house church” is the final word on the solution to this problem. Jane and I desire to see this potential house church grow someday into a church with its own building and a great enough number of people attending it to really allow the church to impact the community around it. We, meaning this cohort, have had some great conversation about this lately. Basically, if there was already an emergent church in Columbus, whatever that might look like, then this particular movement would likely not be needed This group would function as a house church at first, and likely for a long period of time, but primarily due to numbers and the lack of a facility. However, if at any time we are large enough in number to justify a move we believe that should only occur through lengthy debate, appeals to the Spirit, and near consensus with the group.

What would it look like? – It would take the shape that the members conceived, though we believe there are a few basic guidelines that could lead the group. We are presenting these here as brainstorming topics, something that must be discussed by the group as a whole. A few of our ideas are, in no particular order:

A fluid and minimal hierarchy – as purely Spirit-lead as possible
An open-mindedness to postmodern ideas
Some sort of occasional liturgy or worship element
Actively appealing to the Columbus community, both in terms of spreading
the word about what we’re doing as well as serving it
A group that still places primacy on the work and teachings of Jesus

As far as function goes we have some basic ideas that also need to be discussed at length. Basically we can foresee three different types of meetings that would occur within a month. They are:
Twice a month a discussion group much like what we have now (which we originally desired to hold twice a month). This could be about any topic that is beneficial for discussion. We imagine that these discussions will usually be based on some sort of text (book, topic, movie, article, poem, painting, dream, mental image, etc.). Moreover, these meetings could be led by anyone and this position should regularly rotate so that a firm hierarchy is avoided. This includes even interested non-believers, as this would be a wonderful time for them to raise questions.
Once a month a “celebration of the faithful.” This connects to the ancient version of the Mass which had two elements, this being one of them. For our purposes it would consist of a shared meal followed by a liturgical celebration that could include scripture or readings from the Church Fathers, worship, private and corporate prayer, and communion. This event would be open to anyone, though the person/people leading this should probably be confessing followers of Christ.
Once a month a fun activity that would both unite the group and be a great opportunity to invite interested people. This could be something like a game night, bowling, wine tasting, anything that would bring people together to share a activity and fellowship.

Okay, these are our thoughts. What we are mainly interested in right now is to see who else is interested. If a few people are we will set up a time to discuss all these issues in more detail. Obviously someone would not need to attend all four meetings a month to be a member, though there should probably be some people committed to coming every week for the group to survive and thrive. In other words, we still want people to feel free to come to just the discussions or just the liturgical celebrations. So please post if you would be interested in taking this leap. We will only go forward on starting an emergent house church if other people make it apparent that they would participate in it.

Nick and Jane


Jesse said...

Alright, I've been trying to take my time before commenting right away...but I certainly have a few thoughts -

First of all - I commend Nick and Jane for their initiative and courage to step out. I've been thinking a lot lately about taking risks, challenging the status quo, being willing to fail, and not being afraid of judgment from others. So what is most exciting to me is that you guys are being honest about your experiences and what you want to see happen.

In thinking back on our discussions from Saturday night, I have to be honest that I fall in the category of someone who is generally disenchanted with the modern American church experience. I think that there are major problems with the structure, mission and weekly presentation of the Christian message. The reason I am interested in discussing emergent church ideas and enjoy reading emergent authors is because I generally agree with the emergent church message. I see the American Christian Church - in almost all of it's forms - as being co-opted by the dominant framing structure of affluent Western living. I believe that to be a follower of Christ, to radically live what I believe to be true, I have to make some significant changes that the standard church is not interested in, and in some cases, may even try to prohibit.

So, there is a part of me that is very excited, very eager, very interested in talking about house churches, emerging churches, and the like. I think about how those of us who have met somewhat regularly have quickly become friends, and I think part of that reason is the similar openness to postmodernism and emergent ideas. That means a lot to me when I feel like I have to hide in the majority of my Christian relationships. So I think in regards to this discussion of starting something bigger and more consistent, I would be very interested in further discussion, research, corporate prayer, discernment and just brave exploration of different options.

That's the positive side of my response: I strongly believe in the emergent church ideology (in it's various forms) and I want to explore how I can live that out in my life - and so I'd love to talk more with anyone interested.

The negative side of my response stems from past experiences of start up projects that quickly fade, over-excited and naive idealism, and honestly a fear of what my more "sensible" Christian friends will say. I like the idea of saying that we would like to expand the central ohio cohort, becoming more intentional and regular with our meetings. When words like "starting a new church" begin to be thrown around, something within me jerks back and doesn't want to use that language, and honestly I'm not completely sure why. It doesn't come from just one reason.

I think Nick and Jane's suggestions for a starting structure and monthly plan are a great place to start, with further discussion as to the central mission and purpose of the cohort. As of now, I understood it to be simply an outlet and arena for exchanging emergent ideas. But to become something more could be really exciting.

I think there is a lot to talk about here, and I would be up for getting together again soon - perhaps this weekend or even during the week - at a coffee shop or just about anywhere, to talk about some more of these ideas in person. I'm also very curious to see what others think.

Thanks again Nick and Jane for getting the discussion rolling!!

Nick Johnson said...

Thanks for you comments Jesse, and for posting...we were starting to worry that everyone thought we were crazy. I think you bring up some good points, and let me say that this is the first time I have been excited about God in a few years and its really pretty nice. That being said, I am by no means confident this is a good idea, I just think I'm ready to take a risk and open my life up to this.

I could easily see this fading very quickly. Even our discussion group meets nowhere near as often as we originally discussed. And once school starts back up I might be singing a different tune. But, right now Jane and I give six hours a week to our church and we make that work. Basically, we are just thinking of moving that six hours a week to this emergent group as we feel we would reach more people, do more for their lives, and do more for God (and God would likely do more for us). And yes, the idea of starting a "church" scares the hell out of me as well, especially since I am the most underqualified member of our little cohort. I've read a few books and I probably know more about 16th century music than anyone here, but that's about it. But, if this thing functions the way we would like it then a leader would not be needed. A secretary maybe, but not a church leader in the traditional sense. We, meaning Jane and I, feel its about time we left that up to the Holy Spirit. Jesus makes some pretty big claims about what the Spirit will do for us, and maybe it's time we take him seriously.

Anyway, I am excited to have a discussion about this. Jane and I will be leaving for Christmas in Missouri sometime in the middle of next week, so we will have to get together before then.

Jesse said...

You kinda mentioned this is your response, and it's something I've been thinking about:

What does it say that a good portion of our cohort members are students right now? In 2-3 years, will the membership/leadership look completely different? Is that something to take into consideration?

Just a thought....again, I'm stoke to talk some more - I'm up for whatever, whenever, just let me know -

Jane Johnson said...


I think that you bring up a good point. It is true that Nick and I will most likely end up leaving Columbus in a few years, simply because the chances are so small that we would find work here. But, I think we have to add to our discussion of this whole thing a real spiritual searching. We have to ask ourselves if God is calling us to do this. I really think he is. I guess I'm putting faith in God that if we try to do something for him with a humble spirit, he will cause at least something worthwhile to come from it. It is possible that the group will disband as students leave, but even if that happens, would that mean we never should have started the house church in the first place?

I do think your concern is a good thing to try to plan for as we start a house church, if we do. How will we generate interest beyond the nomadic graduate students of Ohio State and other area schools? It would be nice for the group to continue to grow after people like Nick and I leave, and maybe realizing this potential problem so early in the process would help to ensure that.