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INTRAdenominational Church Planting Networks

In Viral Churches, we write about church planting networks. There are different kinds, but one of the approaches is an INTRAdenominational network. Obviously, that is not the same as an INTERdenominational one, which plants churches across denominational lines, etc. Both can be done well, but the reason there are intradenominational networks is because planting churches is one of those areas that requires partners to have a high degree of theological commonality.

For example, each church needs to consider its practice of baptism, its views of who can serve in what leadership roles, how it practices church membership, and many other things. Thus, when it comes to church planting, churches and denominations often tend their own garden. In other words, there are reasons that Presbyterians plant churches that are, well, Presbyterian.

But, within those denominational / theological communities, we find networks forming. One of the better known networks like this would be Stadia. Or, the example we use in Viral Churches is the New Thing Network.

Here is an excerpt from Viral Churches.

Intradenominational

The next type of partnership is typically called a network. Intradenominational networks operate as a specialized organization to assist churches by helping them partner together for best practices and best resources. They typically have common values and common pools of resources. Ultimately, however, they are built around a common (denominational) theology. The approach of many church planting centers today is to recognize that God’s kingdom is made up of Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptist, Pentecostals, Lutherans, and others (this is hardly an exhaustive list). These groups maintain their distinctive doctrines while agreeing to a baseline orthodoxy. Yet they also work with each other by sharing such resources as knowledge and training.

One predominantly intradenominational example is the NewThing network, profiled in Chapter Seven , many of whose churches are part of the restoration movement (the Christian Church emphasis of restoring the church of the New Testament rather than reforming the existing churches). Another intradenominational network is Seattle Church Planting, profiled later in this section.

In Orlando this week, another one is forming. This one is called, due to the fact that you have to buy vowels, PLNTD.

The PLNTD website explains:

PLNTD exists because we believe in the local church and embrace the call of the Great Commission. PLNTD is a decentralized network of churches and church planters fostering kingdom partnerships around the framework of being gospel-centered, missionally driven, distinctively Baptist, and confessionally Reformed.

Our purpose is derived from text and context. Textually, we see that church planting is the natural outcome of enduring commitment to the Great Commission. Contextually, we believe that a church-based network is not only the best way to advance God’s kingdom in an area but also the best place for church planters to be trained and supported. It is our desire to be able to facilitate both: developing church planters as well as church planting churches.

in the years to come, expect to hear many more interdenominational and intradenominational networks.

In Breaking the Missional Code, we wrote a chapter on networks. In 2005 (when we wrote the book), networks were beginning to be noticed by more churches. We wrote:

We believe that these early networks will open a floodgate of church alliances. Churches will begin to pool resources to plant and support churches based on affinity (and then, perhaps, beyond such affinities)…

They are not asking for permission to do it; they are just doing it. As a result, these churches are having a higher involvement in transformational mission than ever before…

As these networks grow and gain influence, denominations are trying to discern how best to relate to transdenominational networks… For many, these alliances are seen as a threat. However, it is hard to dismiss networks through which more and more churches are finding a meaningful outlet for mission involvement. These churches are more involved in missions than ever before–although not in a traditional manner and not through the preexisting system, whether international or North American.

This week in Orlando I will visit two start up network meetings, PLNTD and SendNYC.

SendNYC is a regional network. Their site explains their vision / mission / voice:

Vision: To see 100 gospel-centered churches planted in the New York City area by December 2020.

Mission: SendNYC exists to mobilize and equip leaders in order to plant gospel-centered churches in New York City, North America, and cities around the world.

Voice: SendNYC has been established for the exclusive purpose of seeing gospel-centered churches planted in the New York City area. Believing that Jesus has established his Church as the ultimate means of personal and societal transformation, SendNYC’s long term goal of having a noticeable impact on the city will be realized when Jesus’ Bride is thriving and healthy. In order to see its long-term vision realized, SendNYC will focus its efforts on the mobilization and equipping of hundreds of leaders. Ultimately SendNYC will be supported through a broad coalition of churches, institutional and denominational partners, under the direction of a board of directors, all working together to accomplish our common vision.

Networks are coming… better get ready.

Take a moment to jump in and discuss. Some questions to ponder:

1. Are these networks a threat to denominations? Why or why not?

2. Why are churches drawn to such networks?

3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches?

Feel free to weigh in. And, if you don’t mind, let me know about any other INTRAdenominational networks that might not be on my radar.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books.