I was fortunate in my ministerial upbringing for many reasons. But there was one that forever altered my view of our local church’s potential. My pastor and mentor grilled into our developing hearts that churches were never meant to be dependent or independent but instead, interdependent!
As a young assistant pastor he led me to understand that the journey to relevance could not be accomplished alone since our tasks were never just local but global. That was in a church of barely 30 people!
That injection of purpose plus my own hunger for connection helped lead us to well over a decade of fruitful vision, growth and service to a network of churches and ministries that was life changing. That stream of churches and leaders was ahead of its time. There was unprecedented growth and expansion and yes, countless mistakes. In fact, that which got us to a vision-promised land so to speak, servant leadership—was the very thing that would topple us when it stopped serving the uniquely designed purpose! Yet, in all its missteps the existing status quo of developing ministries known at that time would be challenged and re-scripted in a way that would forever stay with me. It changed me, changed our church, and changed our world-view. I have always and will always believe that networking is still a God-idea and one that could still alter the potential of average-minded churches today! Here are some reasons why.
(1) Vision grows greater when there are “shared” values by those who are short on resources. There is no question that a combined effort increases potential and possibility. That synergy between churches that could not exercise such potential alone, offers advantages once seen impossible since resources and effort are multiplied! There exists no greater example than when churches that are networked participate in world and crisis missions’ efforts—TOGETHER! Under-resourced ministries find themselves at a huge disadvantage of participating in life-changing missions efforts because they simply lack the connections, manpower, and management capability. Sorrowfully, most churches are relinquished to always offer “money” alone to already over-resourced ministries who as they say,” can do the mission for them.” That is not a sin but it does nothing for the equipping or on-the-ground experience churches can use for their own building up! Our church was able to gain valuable experience by not just supporting missions but also actually doing it together within our established relational connections. Multiplied effort created phenomenal results on the field that we ALL shared together. What it did to our own missionaries when they shared their own experiences on the mission field with our people created a movement you could not qualify in numbers alone! To what end? A “shared” cause that creates ownership and relationships!!
(2) The Local Church (house) grows because it is connected to a greater purpose. You cannot minimize the effect a doable “group” vision has on a local congregation since hearts are tied to something larger than their own four walls. Our church grew not just in numbers but also in maturity simply because it saw life and discipleship on a much larger scale! Access to larger ministry equipping gatherings that brought people together created a crowd where a crowd did not exist. Shared value gets celebrated and grounded in conferences and retreats. More importantly, these times created support for real issues that are better served when the Body realizes they have others contending for the same things. Youth, single adults, marriages, leadership gatherings become so much more because it is a larger family context where all no longer see their own resource limitations but instead see potential!
(3) There is access to a myriad of Body-gifts and their unique manifestations which otherwise would be limited in their own house. The most invaluable bit of advice (and strategy) I was given when I assumed the leadership of our small local church was through my apostolic covering. Similar to a father taking time to express guidance for a son’s success is exactly what mine did for me. He laid out a game plan to have specific ministry gifts come in to speak at the church through that first year to help me forge growth. I simply trusted his judgment since I knew he knew what we needed. It was incredible as each ministry leader gave us different looks at Scriptural structure. All of which would otherwise be limited in our little church as my team was just not there yet. An even greater blessing occurs though, because an apostolic leader knows that ministry done this way exposes those gifts to new expressions and service outside of THEIR own house. This is invaluable experience that would be limited under normal circumstances since in most cases, they are what most people would deem “no-name” ministries. Many of these leaders in their own trans-local ministry experience, would get to meet some local church champions in our own church who were doing remarkable things. Which in turn would open a door for these servant leaders to grow further by serving in another context. Needs are easier to be addressed at the local level because the sharing of ministry expertise and anointing is greater. One thing needs to be noted here. We never freeloaded on visiting gifts! Even at that size we were taught to take up offerings and even budget finances to offset costs. No one ever went away empty-handed or even worse, left paying for his or her own sacrificial ministry! God always (I mean ALWAYS) honored our giving to these precious servants. Sadly, many today remain under-resourced because THEY UNDER-RESOURCE others.
(4) Opens mainline leaders to apostolic parenting that can care for THEM personally outside of name recognition alone but relationship. The care of leaders and their families is especially important to me and this vehicle of connection becomes a source of relief. The relationship can also open up for protection and additional strategic relationships that help houses cross new finish lines based on their unique growth patterns. As it becomes obvious that everyone is growing so will the advice since it is based first on authentic care and relationship. As churches grow their needs also grow and the leaders who lead them. That helps when acquiring strategic voices that can assist in different seasons along the way. More than likely an under-resourced church nearby is encountering stress and illusion because they are attempting to acquire expertise from “experts” that have no heart for them specifically or understanding of their particular season. Having a voice is one thing – having a true apostolic voice is quite another. Because of relationship specific ministry needs are easier to meet since there are many who are willing to do “favors” and sacrifices for a leader’s spiritual sons and daughters.
(5) And finally, who can question the value of shared joys and shared suffering amongst leaders and their churches. A brotherhood/sisterhood emerges because of the trenches of ministerial warfare. Many leaders suffer from treachery and betrayal in the ranks only to rely on the comfort of those who don’t judge them but instead empathize. There are many who have grown cold toward the idea of networking altogether because of betrayals or losses at these levels. But even those leaders would be willing to take a loss here and there as the compost of life when the rewards of such connection outweighs those losses. So many leaders confide to me, the desire to return to those days of shared sacrifice, love and yes, even battle. I experienced that first hand as a young leader when my wife and I were in the battle of our life for our toddler. Many of my friends across the globe prayed and wept with us during that battle all the while steadying our hands. I grew in confidence and strength because of those relationships. When God brought about a miracle it took the better part of three years to quiet the ongoing praying we were still receiving because the report had not traveled as fast in those days! Who can resist that level of connection?
I believe in networking and as a ministerial father by nature – I see it as an antidote to the multiplied losses and discouragement that grows within the Church’s ranks. Everyone wins and churches are strengthened thereby releasing people to serve in unique capacities that actually leave useful and long lasting fruit in local churches. That’s how my ministry grew because I went where I was called and served where it was needed. But my church grew because they experienced a relational network of leaders who would pour out to them in our church location but also in collaborative conferences. In those conferences they were able to hear from their pastor in another setting which brought them greater vision. But it also exposed them to many more seasoned and tried leaders who actually cared about them. Maybe it’s time you considered and recalibrate your relationships for mutual growth.
© 2016 Jimmy Mas / www.newcityministry.com