The Shaping of a Network: How A Post-Denominational Connectional Church Is Being Formed (Part 1)
Introducing Our Direction
Along the way of developing Ecclesia I’ve had several people ask me in one way or another “Didn’t you spend 5 years doing research on networks before Ecclesia started?” This is then usually followed by a next obvious question, “When are you going to share what you discovered?”
While, it is true that I spent 5 years researching how God was moving in the development of a new kind of connectional church, it is a bit off the mark that I did this before Ecclesia began. I had done a great of research and interviewing before we officially began Ecclesia and those early discoveries were extremely helpful in the initial formation of our network. However, a great deal of the investigation has continued over the last several years and though less intense than it once was, still continues today. I’ve not tried to share before what I discovered (except for the few people that were willing to read my long doctoral dissertation), but now seems like a good time to do so (mostly so that people will get off my back about my lack of blogging/writing ).
So, over the next year I’ll try to lay out a number of the things I discovered during those five years (and some subsequent observations and conclusions as well). While Ecclesia has certainly not delved into all these waters, in some way they have formed who we are becoming today. I’m going to start by doing a series of posts on the Core Practices of new church networks and for the purposes of our own network, this most easily translates into the “work” that we do.
What is essential to understand in these series of posts is that often I will alternate back and forth between talking about a “network” and “denomination”. While you could press down on the differences between these two things (and there are certainly some) – what they both have at their core is the essential DNA of being a trans-local, covenanted community focused on collaborative gospel work together. The ways and patterns of organization, the type of hierarchy, the theological dispositions, etc certainly all change, and in different seasons of history, some have made greater sense than others (and the lack of change could be part of their struggles today).In the wider scope of “ecclesiology” they belong in the same family.
I certainly consider Ecclesia more of a network than a denomination, though we would share much of the same DNA has some denominations (particularly those that are congregationally focused and are more accurately an “association” of churches instead of a “denomination). Another way of saying this is that for some churches in Ecclesia, our network connects to their congregational life just as a denomination would for some other church. For others, Ecclesia is really a network they are part of in addition to a denomination and they connect to Ecclesia for some slightly different reasons. Of course, if we currently have 30 churches involved and another 10 in process they are all somewhere slightly different on that spectrum and THAT is one of the marks of what makes us a network and not a denomination.