People in business talk about networking all the time. They know the mutual benefits and they understand that it is worth their time.
But a network is not purely a business function. In fact, it has to do with the very nature of all Creation.
It is an amazing book in which Barabási explains that scientifically speaking all things relate to each other in a network. In it, he wrote, “The construction and structure of graphs or networks is the key to understanding the complex world around us.”
So business is not the only modality which uses networks. Moreover, networks are, as Barabási explains, part of all structures in the world and the universe.
So let’s apply this to the church.
What is Networking in Church Planting?
Barabási who is a secular scientist wrote, “Paul was a master of first-century social and religious links, the only network at the beginning of the modern era that could carry and spread a faith.”
Paul understood that a multitude of relationships was how the faith was going to spread. This is very different from our common view of mass-marketing and online social media where anonymity is gold.
And today, we generally consider ourselves “networked” if we know another pastor in town and have had lunch together. At that point, we agree to cheer each other on, while keeping our ministries completely separate.
Again, this is very different from how Paul did it.
So here is a breakdown of Paul’s networking strategy:
- Paul planted multiple churches which met in homes in a single city.
- Those churches in the city related to each other through a network of common leaders, who were called elders. Their role over the churches in the city was all about shepherding.
- The different cities in which Paul planted these churches connected to each other through their relationships with the Apostolic leaders. The role these Apostolic leaders played was all about raising up leaders in new churches.
- Paul utilized strategic cities as hub cities, such as Antioch, Ephesus, and later on, Rome, which which housed those Apostolic leaders and was a base for communication and decision-making. All churches were connected with one or more of these hub cities.
That was how Paul’s network was structured, and that is how the faith was passed on through the first three centuries.
An older article explains why we church leaders don’t actually like to work together.
But the next few sections are about why networking is so vital to a church planting movement.
Vital to Leadership Development
If you noticed, in Paul’s strategy, it was the leaders which tied together all different levels of networking.
The leaders themselves worked on planting new churches, shepherding those under their care, and raising up new leaders.
Today, a network of leaders is so important in leadership development. It is, after all, what a seminary is – a network of leaders (professors) who teach up and coming pastors.The #leaders tie together all different levels of #networking. Click To Tweet
*Personal Note – Seminary offers so many good things, but I also contend that seminary has a lot of downfalls. Take a look at this older article to see what I mean.
But a network in the city could be even more effective. The top leaders in the city gather together to train up others. Imagine what would happen: the emerging leaders would not only learn biblical study as well as character development, but also valuable ministry skills which are particularly important to their city.
As churches are being planted across the city in homes and businessfronts, an established network would help support the small congregations while they are in startup mode and don’t have access to a lot of other resources. It would jettison the ability of these plants to be effective in leadership development.
The Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development is an awesome tool for a network just like this.
Vital to the Establishment of Our faith
The elders who formed the basis for the network between churches in a single city back in the first century give us a great model.
They were in charge of dispersing the Apostles’ Teachings to each and every member of the churches in their city. After all, Paul himself could hardly be held responsible to teach every single individual. That just wouldn’t be possible.
So for us today, networked leaders can get past denominational and doctrinal differences, since those were not the foundation of the Apostles’ Teaching anyway. Think about – the Apostles did not spend large amounts of time making sure everybody had the correct view about predestination or free will. They did not emphasize the order of events of the end times.
These kinds of things only divide, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we should acknowledge that those subjects aren’t 100% clear in Scripture, so we should not hold them 100%.
What the Apostles did focus on in their body of teaching (which is seen in the entire New Testament itself) is the death and resurrection of Christ, the simple fact that He is going to return. They emphasized holy living, properly structured families, proper relationships and structure within the church, and proper relationships with the government, our workplace, and any non-believer.
These are all things a network of leaders from different backgrounds can have unity on and work to ensure that the city of churches are founded on. I don’t see this is unreasonable compromise – maybe it’s too bold of me, but I say that if the Apostles did not emphasize a subject, then we don’t have to either.
Moreover, a network would make the establishment of our faith stronger, simply because there would be more access to high-quality teachers. Have you ever thought about sharing leaders? One church has lots of strong teachers, and another church has lots of new believers. You see where I’m going with this?
Vital to Evangelism
The church in Jerusalem gained favor with the people. They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ Teaching, to loving one another, and to doing good works.
Here’s the thing – all of us who call ourselves Christians can be unified in taking good care of our communities. Don’t let it bother you that those guys down the street speak in tongues or the ones on Elm St. believe in dispensationalism. Your unity in loving your neighbors should be speaking volumes to your city.
And with a network, everybody will have access to far more resources – financial resources, connections to specific non-profits or government representatives, manpower, etc. This means more good works. This means more opportunities to share the gospel.They devoted themselves to doing good works. #love Click To Tweet
Also with a network, there can be much more strategy and coordination between different outreaches.
Say a church over in Maple subdivision is spreading the good news to their neighbors. Well, the church four blocks away can rest assured that their efforts can be focused on their side of Main St, instead of crossing over into Maple. And the Native American church over on Mound Rd can help others reach Natives in their own areas. And Good City Church provides a ministry for pregnant teens so all the churches can offer that ministry to their neighbors.
In these three areas – leadership development, becoming established in our faith, and evangelism – a strong, unified network of leaders can propel the new and existing churches in fresh ways.
Let’s not forget, Paul did it. If we are going to do something different, we should have very good reasons why. Personally, the reasons for doing things differently just don’t convince me anymore.
And on a national and international level, those connections make a network even more effective.
So how about it? Will you connect with leaders in your city? Will you connect with leaders around city and the world?
Will you connect with me?