Leadership in networks allows a growing group of simple churches to work together, grow new leaders and accomplish even more of the good things God has planned for His people.

So what happens to churches as they grow and start new churches that start new churches that start new churches? How do they stay connected? How do they live life together as an extended spiritual family?

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When spiritual families (i.e. simple churches) reproduce, networks of related churches soon develop.  These networks then function like a city or regional church.  

It is at this city or regional level that we see elders and deacons functioning.  It is also at this level the leadership gifts, such as apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd (pastor) and teacher come into play.  These leadership gifts are primarily equipping gifts to prepare all disciples to be more effective in ministry. These leaders as well as the elders and deacons can serve a large number of spiritual families.  We see this pattern in Scripture for example with the deacons in the Jerusalem church or the elders in the Ephesian church. 

This sort of structure utilizes the same patterns at the macro level as are evident in the spiritual families at the micro level.  The 3/3rds pattern is evident in leadership training meetings and peer mentoring sessions. The Four Fields pattern is used for planning, evaluation and coaching at the higher levels.  The main adjustment is that applications are in corporate terms rather than individual terms. The goals and activities are taken at the scale represented in the meeting.

Typically the area where the network starts becomes central in leadership terms.  As the influence of that network expands, it essentially adds levels below the parent.  For example, if a church network starts in Tampa, it will at first function as a city church in Tampa.  As its influence spreads across the state of Florida, it may then function as a state church and have streams of daughter churches in various cities and counties.  As it continues to grow it will begin to function at a national level and even an international level. There will be various streams of daughter churches in different states and countries around the world.  These churches tend to remain connected because of their common DNA and parentage.

If some of the streams split off into their own networks due to convenience, language, or other factors, this is not a problem.  If the DNA has been successfully passed on then everything needed to establish a new movement of multiplying disciples is present in every spiritual family or even every member of a spiritual family.

Typically, each church is small, having between 4 and 12 adults, along with their children.  They are intergenerational, although teenagers can begin planting churches among their peers if they so desire.  This small size makes it possible for the relationships to be more intimate, the accountability to be more effective, and the participation to be fuller.

The default pattern for people who come to Christ or who already follow Christ but are moving to a new area is not for them to join an existing church, but rather to be equipped to start a new spiritual family, which is then joined to the network.  In this way, spiritual families can be kept small enough to be very fruitful and effective in disciple-making. Again, the small size makes it possible for the relationships to be more intimate, the accountability to be more effective, and the participation to be fuller.

The willingness of simple churches and individual followers to learn, obey and share God’s Word is the spiritual DNA of a movement. If it is passed on successfully from generation to generation, from church to church and from believer to believer then everything needed to begin a new movement of multiplying disciples is already present in every spiritual family and in every follower of Jesus.

When movements launch movements, that’s when we start to see the “leaven” working through the dough of a city or a state or even a nation.  That is how the Kingdom of God comes in such a way that God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven.

That is how we can finish the Great Commission by making disciples of all nations.

Ask Yourself

  • Are there advantages when networks of simple churches are connected by deep, personal relationships? What are some examples that come to mind?

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