The phenomenon in the Chinese underground church the past five decades has been the expansion of the message of Jesus through home based churches. In light of persecution they were forced to give up large group public gatherings. They met in singular homes or apartments that created clusters of gatherings in various cities and towns. It is estimated the population of Christ followers in China grew from 1 million in 1950 to 50 million by 1990.
The lay leadership of these home churches were well networked to share resources, use their gifts in serving one another, and dare to believe God for greater things in His mission.
We are taking some of the principles of Jesus life and ministry together with the working of His spirit through churches around the world, like in China, into part of our strategic plan for Gateway Church. We are organizing ourselves, sometimes organically and other times organizationally (organic-izationally), into what we call Networks.
What is a Network?
A Network is a group of 30 to 70 people who are on mission together in a hyper-local geographic location or among a specific affinity of people. They live life together socially with the one another and their neighbors, they serve the physical and spiritual needs of one another and their neighbors and they are a spiritual community for one another as followers of Jesus.
A Network is made up of individuals and various Small Group members who want to be connected to a medium sized circle of people on mission to change the world. Jesus sent out a group of 72 disciples two by two to heal the sick and teach about the kingdom. A Network follows this similar idea of being a community on mission.
How Can You Start and Build a Network?
Here are the key steps we are implementing in building these localized Networks throughout Austin. The Wave steps do not require being sequential but there is some value in moving along the path sequentially. As individual molecules of water move in rhythm together they gain momentum and energy. As a Network engages in actions by individuals and as a group the energy of this collective effort builds momentum.
How Can I Know if My Network Is Growing and Healthy?
We have twenty one Networks that are actively moving along this path. As we measure the health of a Network we use the following key indicators for health and growth. They give a Network Leader and their core team a way to assess the trajectory of their Network. There are minimums of critical mass for publicly broadcasting their Network through our church communication channels. These concentric circles are guideposts for understanding the ‘red dot’ on the map at the Shopping Mall that clearly says “I am Here.”
The Wave steps give the Network Leader and leadership core actions to take to move the Network from “Here” to “There.”
How is your church or ministry going beyond Small Groups to create Medium Sized groups? Where does mission show up for the people in your church? Does it happen in the Sunday morning service, the Small Group, individual responsibility of each person, or other?