We are speeding toward a future where our most powerful communities will be understood through the lens of network instead of institution. Networks will devour hierarchies. The question is not whether we will be networked in the coming years, it’s how, and who will set the terms. As always, when in the midst of a tectonic cultural change, the church has to decide if it will resist the change and be left on the outside of influencing its expression, or if it will engage the change in order to preach the coming Kingdom in the new milieu. We will have to adapt our approach to things like leadership, governance, community, and mission if we hope to adapt to this new world we find ourselves in.
We are in the twilight of mechanisms like command/control leadership, narrow/restrictive vision statements, and homogeneous communities. To build a new kind of church in a networked world we have to understand the elements that make up networks and how to employ them for the formation of the church. In other words, the number of people you can fit in your building should no longer be a meaningful metric for a vibrant, verdant missional community. Today (and in the coming years) it will be something like the creativity and diversity of the network you are forming that defines health, life and growth for the church.
I have identified 7 shifts that lead to 7 new foundations (or building blocks) on which the new church formed as networks of missional communities, will rise. These are not meant to offer a comprehensive ecclesiology, only an unearthing of some shifts that we have seen are necessary in the formation of a networked, multiplying church form. It is our experience and our continued hope that, churches engaging these shifts and built on these foundations will become a new kind of indispensable church, winning the eyes and hearts of the cities where they grow.
The 7 Shifts
SHIFT 1: From static to adaptive systems
SHIFT 2: From boastful to modest superstructures
SHIFT 3: From consumer to creator focus
SHIFT 4: From an ambiguous to simple definition of church
SHIFT 5: From few to ALL being called
SHIFT 6: From control to servanthood in leadership
SHIFT 7: From scarcity to abundance in the pursuit of mission