Interactive Sermon

"Those who have the disease called Jesus will never be cured" ~Old Russian Proverb

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Distributed Church: Not Just Another Model

The Seeker Sensitive Church; the Purpose Driven Church; the Gen X Church; the Cell Church; the G12 Model Church; etc.

The Distributed Church is not another ‘model’ of the local church. The term model suggests a pattern for imitation or emulation. That is certainly how people in church circles have viewed a Willow Creek ‘model’ or a Purpose Driven ‘model’. These larger churches have been looked upon as having a template for ministry that can be picked up and laid over a lesser successful setting – in hopes of producing greater results. Within these models there are sometimes methods seen as inherent to them. For those that pick up the Willow Creek model, for instance, it usually means becoming more contemporary in style, more casual in dress, and more technical in media.

The Distributed Church is rather a perspective on church ministry – a perspective that embraces the idea that an individual congregation is really a small part of God’s much larger whole. With the Distributed Church, each congregation that embraces such a perspective on church ministry will implement it – or flesh it out – in a manner fitting with their unique DNA and particular vision as a local church congregation. In each setting, it ought to look different. As in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, we see the body as being all three, (1) united – verses 12-13, (2) many and diverse – verses 14-20, and (3) interdependent on one another– verses 21-26. Some congregations will be a foot while some will be elbows, and to try to dress an elbow to resemble a foot would be an unfortunate mistake. There really isn’t a template that transfers from a church of 10,000 to a church of 200. There really isn’t a template that transfers from a church in South Barrington, Illinois to a church in Southern New Hampshire.

Additionally, the word ‘model’ has a time connotation to it: ‘the latest model’ or ‘last years model’ or ‘an antiquated model’, for instance. The Distributed Church, however, is generative, living and life giving, evolving and organic. It will look different in every different setting, and will be freshly relevant today and tomorrow as it was in the first century. Rather than seeing the Distributed Church as a model, we see local congregations as ‘models’ of the Distributed Church. These models all share the very same perspective – that of each of their identities being a small part of God’s bigger whole – and on that perspective these congregations understand their relationship to one another and others. Each congregation that may be seen as a model of the Distributed Church continues ministering in methods that are most fitting for their unique DNA, particular Vision and those that are most responsive to the unique culture they find themselves in. You can, and indeed should, have models of the Distributed Church that look and feel very different!

This is a piece of a larger project I'm playing with on the church in the {twenty}first century. I'd welcome your feedback. I'll drop a few more pieces here in the coming weeks.


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