Third Day Churches is a house church movement founded in San Diego that has since spread to eight countries. Gary Goodell birthed the idea in 2001 from 34 years of ministry experience that spans 12 independent charismatic churches. "I wanted to experiment with the size, location, and way people do church," said Goodell about these churches that meet in people's homes. "We don't always preach or teach. Some evenings are question-and-answer, worship, or even silence. We want to rethink the form of church in this new millennium. Christ died before the resurrection. We need to let a part of the church die." Goodell said these new forms of church will have a better chance to reach this generation. "I believe we are going to see a great turning of the hearts of this generation to God." Valerie Thatcher, who facilitates a home group with her husband in the University Towne Centre area, says, "Our normal meeting, if you can call it that, is a potluck feast and time to hang out and talk. Usually we have worship and do whatever God wants us to do. Sometimes someone shares a word from the Bible, people pray in tongues, we pray over people, or someone might prophesy." Last Wednesday, Thatcher said that God showed her a prophecy. "Last week, I saw Him say the word 'pleasure'. I saw a picture of God dancing with me. God wanted to show us how pleased He was of us." Thatcher's home group, which was started with 4 or 5 people, has grown to over 20. Thatcher said a lot of people are drawn to their Wednesday-night study from traditional churches. "They want more. They come here and there is more joy and freedom for people to worship God. Our churches are not about a coming to a meeting, they are about relationships."
The local home churches gather once a month for a celebration service. At these services, the groups worship God, and on occasion, a speaker is brought in. Last week, the Third Day Churches brought in Graham Cooke to speak at a three-day conference on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Cooke, Gary Goodell, and another pastor sat on couches in the front of the La Mesa Assemblies of God sanctuary. Several hundred people filled the sanctuary to hear Cooke speak about a new form of church, centered on relationships and prophecy. Goodell said Cooke had come two years earlier to speak, and on the Saturday- night event, there was "prophecy, thunder, and pounding."
"The church in the west is living in some sort of bizarre alternative universe. A large part of the evangelical church is Pharisaical. The church is set up to keep people in place," said Cooke as he reclined on a couch. Cooke believes the church is what keeps people from God. "The church is missing it. What we are doing is largely irrelevant to a whole bunch of people." Cooke suggested that God may not answer people's prayers for revival because God doesn't want to birth new Christians into the current church. "For God to come, it must be done on earth as it is in heaven. What is it that will persuade heaven to come to us? One thing God cannot deny is when he sees people living in unity. He has to come." Cooke said the church must move from a "functional paradigm," based on business and systems, to a "relational paradigm."
Graham Cooke spoke about the role of prophecy in the Church. "Any church that disavows the prophetic is cutting off their future. A church will have to resort to programs to keep people. A church that doesn't have any vision of where they are going outside of a mission statement is freaky," said Cooke. "The ear was the organ of the modern church; people wanted to hear if Christianity was truth. The eye is the organ for today.... People want to see something. The church needs to return to our supernatural roots of signs, wonders, and miracles.... This world is tailor-made for Christians. Yet, two-thirds of the church doesn't believe in the prophetic while one-half of non-Christians believe in the prophetic. This is why non-Christians go to psychics. If [a Christian] can heal someone or tell someone what is going to happen and it does, a person will believe in God." Cooke wrote a book, Developing Your Prophetic Gifting, to help train prophets for this new generation. Through this book and Cooke's Schools of Prophecy, Cooke said "It takes about 12 years to make a good prophet."
After the Thursday-night session, people gathered around a resource table with Cooke's books for sale. I spoke to Jennifer, who attends Maranatha in San Diego, but attended the event through the invitation of her friends. "They told me about Graham Cooke -- that I had to come and hear him. I am always interested in hearing new ideas." Jennifer says most of her Christian friends in the Calvary movement would be uncomfortable with the idea of people that prophesy about the future. "A lot of red flags go up in me when I hear about it."
Gary Goodell said he sees more people who believe in prophecy and other supernatural gifts. "We are getting toward the end times," said Gary Goodell. "God has promised us a harvest. Christ is coming back. He isn't going to return for a beat-up church but a glorious bride."
Founded locally: 2001
Senior pastor: Gary Goodell
Congregation size: 200
Staff size: 3
Sunday school enrollment: n/a
Annual budget: not given
Weekly giving: not given
Singles program: no
Worship: multiple times and locations
Length of reviewed service: 2=1/2 hours