the weblog of Alan Knox

The Interconnected Church…

Posted by on Jan 15, 2007 in definition, fellowship, members | 11 comments

There is a list of blogs that I frequent on the right side of this web page. If I go to most of those blogs, they will also include a list of blogs that the author visits regularly. If you navigate through those links, you will find other lists of blogs. And the cycle continues indefinitely… well, not indefinitely, but for many, many links.

There are a few people who frequent my blog. They interact with me through comments. I occasionally visit other blogs and interact with them through comments.

Could it be that this is a metaphor for the church in the New Testament?

Consider a believer in the New Testament. Let’s call him Joe. Joe knows several other believers. He interacts with them through normal relationships: family relationships, neighborhood relationships, work relationships, civic relationships, etc. Since these people are believers, they also gather regularly. Now, they may not all gather together at the same time. Perhaps some gather regularly at Joe’s house. Others gather regularly at Sally’s house. Joe occasionally meets with those at Sally’s house because he knows most of the people there. Also gathering at Sally’s house is the Smith family. They do not gather with the people at Joe’s house regularly, because the Smith family does not know them well. However, since they love Joe, and want to interact with him more, they will meet at his house on occasion. Meanwhile, once in a while, Joe will meet with another group with the Smith family. In this way, the interconnectivity is strengthened and grows.

In this scenario, there is interconnectivity among the church based on relationships. There is the church in Joe’s house, and the church in Sally’s house, and a few other churches; but they all recognize that they are the church in their city – because of the interconnectivity of relationships. They also recognize that they are somehow connected to groups outside their city, also through the interconnectivity of relationships.

If this is a valid view of the church in the New Testament, then could we be missing something today? Usually, when we talk about churches being connected to one another, we speak in terms of leadership networks, associations, etc. In other words, those in leadership from one church are connected to those in leadership from another church. This connection is not based on natural relationships, but on associations intentionally created to make connections. Meanwhile, many people in each church (specifically, those not in leadership) may find that they have very little connections with those outside their group, even with other churches with whom their leaders “associate”. Why? Because instead of being interconnected, the churches consider themselves mutually exclusive.

Are there any scriptural indications that an interconnected view of the church is valid, or that this view is not valid? What are some problems that might be caused by taking this view of the church?


11 Comments

  1. 1-16-2007

    I really like the way you think, and the posts you write here. You say things so much better than I do.

    I don’t have time right now to examine scriptural indications one way or the other, but I will say that the metaphor strikes me as a very good one.

    I’ll be mulling over this some more, and watching to see what other comments might show up here about it.

  2. 1-16-2007

    In other words, those in leadership from one church are connected to those in leadership from another church. This connection is not based on natural relationships, but on associations intentionally created to make connections.

    I remember as an associate pastor hearing from the senior pastor that relationships must be “intentional”. I now take this to mean that, in the minds of some, relationships must be forced.

    To me, however, a forced relationship is a contradiction. A relationship is something that cannot be canned or packaged. This is what I feel happens at times in a “cell group” within a larger church structure. Instead of allowing relationships to develop naturally, we try to put people together and then tell them to pour out their hearts to each other. Something inside of me rebels against this.

    Relationships within the Church that are true and lasting do not as often arise out of obligation, but rather out of a genuine interest for others. When the Kingdom is built on these kinds of relationships, maybe the world will take notice and cease to look at Christians as fake and hypocritical.

    I hope that this is not a tangent; I would like to think that this somehow ties in to what your post is about.:)

  3. 1-16-2007

    Steve,

    Thank you for the encouragement. I look forward to your thoughts as you think about this more.

    Raborn,

    I think your comments are right on target, not a tangent at all. Thank you.

    -Alan

  4. 1-16-2007

    We had a very interesting discussion about the implications of this view on church discipline in our Wednesday night bible study.
    To sum it up:
    a) church discipline is supposed to lead to reconciliation.
    b) church discipline is really ineffective if relationships are missing since there might not be a desire, by the sinning party, to be reconciled: it does not hurt to be separated from people with whom you have no relationships.
    c) church discipline is really ineffective if relationships between bodies are inexistent, since in many cases this allows the sinning party to just transfer to another body.
    d) as believers we are responsible to admonish and discipline those believers whom we know. This goes beyond our “local body”. Our desire and effectiveness in this is only as great as our relationship with them.

    Much more was said that night, but the bottom line is that it is very easy to hide behind the “local body” so that we do not have to confront brothers and sisters in Christ who are sinning, just because they are not in our body. It is also just as easy to try to discipline somebody with whom we have no relationship. Discipline then really has only the effect of “purifying the membership roles” and not of trying to reconcile the sinning member with the body.

    The relational view thus makes church discipline more effective.

  5. 1-16-2007

    Well Alan, here in Minas Tirith we do something of what you are describing. There are many house churches that are independant who are seeking strength and encouragement through relationship. The problem is that time and logistics are issues. We divided our house group a couple of years ago because there were too many people to fit into one home. We had every intention of meeting periodically together and doing special events together etc. But it hasn’t worked out. We just don’t take the time. On the other hand both of our groups relate to a network of national groups here. And because one is known for good teaching on families, another on leadership, another on unity, another on ministry to villages we all get calls and tour around to different groups to minister together. We work together on different Ev and humanitarian projects.
    Bottom line is I like what you are describing but in the end we have only partly achieved it when we have committed to working together for something bigger than a potluck. In other words intentional relationships mean that we relate with a purpose to do some larger Kingdom activity together. I wish there was more. Others do to but for now this is as much as we are able.
    I hope I have made sense in interacting with what you have written. Thanks for interacting with my blog from time to time.

  6. 1-16-2007

    Maël,

    Yes, the implications for church discipline are very interesting. Many do not understand how church discipline would operate with tight structures. I believe it would operate much better.

    Strider,

    Thank you for your visit. I have been greatly blessed by your tales. One of the things that I did not express clearly concerns intentionality. I do believe that intentionality is necessary to strengthen relationships. I am concerned about forced relationships. Thank you for sharing information about your “Fellowships”. None of us, and so no church, is perfect. But we should all strive to align ourselves with God’s plan. I pray that the community that I am part of can begin to care for people as much as your group does.

    -Alan

  7. 1-16-2007

    oops… my comment to Maël should have read, “Many do not understand how church discipline would operate withOUT tight structures.” What a difference three letters make.

    -Alan

  8. 1-17-2007

    Alan,
    I have been thinking the same things about connectivity. I think that if we really understood the effectiveness and viral nature of the Spirit of God within us, maybe we would be more intentional about connecting.

    I think we have often looked at connecting as requiring a specific outcome, but if we understood that our role as yeast is to simply spread, to make the connection, we could value that as a purposeful activity without expecting visible, measurable results.

    Honestly, I think that lacking a broader vision of the church beyond their own walls, traditional church structures have discouraged this type of cross-connecting.

  9. 1-17-2007

    Grace,

    I have noticed a narrow view of the church. However, I have talked with more and more people whose view of the church is expanding. I pray that we can continue to break from our mutually exclusive model of church membership.

    -Alan

  10. 7-15-2012

    inter-connection via Relationships is functioning today among the ekklesias as a transitional form, as moving from the old administrated “leadership networks, associations” toward a full recognition of one another in the Spirit of Christ.
    Personal relationships are relatively weak and tending preferential; easily abridged or devastated; vulnerable to circumstance, neglect (intentional or unintentional), geography (real or virtual), faults in communications… It is a simple task for the world, the flesh, or the Adversary to take apart human relationships; impossible for these to undo a common bond in Christ.

  11. 7-16-2012

    Marshall,

    Throughout the NT, in writings to the ekklesia, there were exhortations toward “one another” – i.e., toward relationships. Those of us who are part of Jesus’ ekklesia still need those exhortations today.

    -Alan

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