Photo courtesy of Oikon United Methodist Church (shot before Covid-19).
By Lindsay Peyton
Most church plants start with a front door and a worship service. Members are then encouraged to join a small group and become more of a part of the church community. At Oikon UMC, that order is reversed. The Rev. Mike Whang places the focus on small groups, which meet in house churches. The strong sense of community that resulted, as well as the strong presence of God, has been remarkable to witness.
“There are a lot of reasons not to do what I’m doing now,” Pastor Whang said with a laugh.
After all, he’s planting a church in the midst of a pandemic -- and one that looks a little different from the usual church plant.
On the other hand, there are so many reasons to do what he is doing, especially right now. Everything has fallen into place -- and God has been at work at Oikon UMC from the start....
The pastor started by asking several out-of-the-box questions, like “What if the goal of a church were not to grow numerically? What if the metric of success were not measured in worship attendance? What if churches stayed small?
Small groups were essential to his vision. After all, friends and families united in small groups can journey together through raising children, navigating work and facing life’s many challenges.
What if, Whang asked, when members said “church” they weren’t referring to a building but rather to the group of people at their house church?
At Oikon Chapelwood, the core values of covenant community, spiritual formation and social justice were established. Making a promise to God – and to each other to pray, serve and witness together – is essential.
When COVID-19 hit, Oikon Chapelwood had been growing steadily for about 15 months. “Then, everything was turned upside down,” Whang said.
Worship moved online – but the small groups at house church stayed connected, through phone calls and text chains. Sometimes, they join for a picnic. “It’s been beautiful to see,” Whang said....