More Christians are staying home to worship, much as their ancestors did.
"Many people are finding that there aren't enough relationships being formed in established churches," said Les Buford of Walhalla, a former pastor who organized a recent house church conference at Clemson University. "You go there from 11 to 12, hear a sermon and leave."With a house church, 30 to 50 worshippers meet once a week at a member's home. The meetings, Buford said, are more open than in traditional settings.
"Our meetings consist of breaking bread and taking communion," he noted, "with one person teaching and the others sharing what they've learned through Bible study."
Buford estimated there are about 20 house churches in South Carolina.
"When we first started this five years ago, we would put together a newsletter and send it out through the mail," he said. "Then we started putting it on the In-ter-net, and then it started taking off."
"What's happening especially in today's culture is that we're all so busy and becoming so isolated," he said. "We're trying to turn that around. . . ."
Fred Astin, missions director for the Beaverdam Baptist Association in Seneca, S.C., saw no threat to traditional churches, just as a more comfortable option for some people.
House church Web sites with national directories for such churches include (www.homechurch.org), (www.hccentral.com) and (www.homechurch.com).