In-Network News from the Network- March 2015

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From the National Director...

March Update from National Director Chris Backert
I Know Who My Family Is …. And It Looks Like You

The last few years I’ve spent a lot of time with different Christian denominations. In fact, being bi-vocational, it’s one of my jobs.  Sometimes I am surprised at the places I find myself.  I’ve spoken in places where I walked in and a picture of Bishop Shelby Spong hung upon the wall and in others where they are still inclined to believe that the King James Version is the preemiment version of the Bible.  Most recently, doors have even opened among Catholics.  It is really an interesting day.

Along the way there are times when I feel more at home than others.  I always try to imagine myself “fitting” in each group I am with.  It helps me relate, communicate, and understand.  Yet, I always leave knowing – these might be my friends – but they are not my family.

I grew up with a very large extended family.  My dad had 6 brothers and sisters and most of them had an abnormally large number of children.  It was a wonderful community to grow up in.  There was a wonderful unity in our family, built around several common family traits.  Not everyone was the same by any means, and each person on the family tree had a unique role.  Yet, it was the important overlap of those uniquenesses grounded in a certain number of shared family traits that made it so easily life-giving.

Not long ago, I had three different people share with me what they perceive to be the identity of Ecclesia.  In no particular order here are some of the things they mentioned (they didn’t mention all the same things):
  • An intentional approach to discipleship
  • An openness to the mystery & activity of the Holy Spirit
  • A concern for justice filtered through the person of Jesus and the present kingdom
  • An important emphasis on community life
  • A more liturgical understanding of worship
  • A practical approach to mission locally
  • A leaning towards shared leadership and plurality
Now, not everyone has all of these traits.  I for one certainly don’t hold some of them and some not to the same degree at others.  I am not inclined toward a liturgical approach to worship, I would prefer the more charismatic over the contemplative (though both are important and probably best work together and are likely more a manifestation of personality), and I see the downsides of shared leadership and the necessity of different leadership modes in different seasons.  My guess is that no particular church or leader would hit the “bulls-eye” on all of these areas – but I think that is very good.  Like my extended family we have enough commonality that we can easily “belong” – but with enough difference that we can actually help, challenge, encourage, and support one another.  In fact, it is those more personal dispositions that become manifested in our communities of faith that I believe to be really at the greatest core of our shared commitment and ethos together.  I see some of those traits as a deep concern for the inner life from which a life of mission can flow, an emphasis upon growth, but not at the expense of a maturing life in Christ, a value for the long-standing ministry of the church, but re-articulated for a new time, and a consciousness of the importance of traveling together, even if that comes and goes in seasons. 

Not long ago I was with a denominational group that identifies itself as being built upon a “3-legged stool."  An interesting conversation occurred during my time with them in which some people wanted to add a few legs to the stool.  Others were concerned that such inclusion would diminish their particular identity.  Some wanted to accent one leg.  This is no doubt a conversation that many “tribes” are having today as they wrestle with their future in light of the past. 

What I love about the folks in Ecclesia is that I think they represent a sign of what the Holy Spirit is doing theologically and missiologically in our time.  There is an important collapse of our long-standing Christendom-birthed categories and a melding or fusion of something new (and previously impossible on a practical level) possible.  For instance, I’ve heard one leader in Ecclesia describe themselves as Catholic-Anabaptist.  What the heck is that?  They also happen to lean Wesleyan in terms of sanctification and are open to the work of the Spirit, but in more private than public exercise.  Someone else once told me, “I am a Free Church Anglican.”  They are also both reformed in some ways and a mystic in others.  What are we to make of all this?

I believe that while this may not look like our historical categories, communities like Ecclesia are cultivating, usually unintentionally, but by the work of the Spirit, a way forward in a new era.  If a ten-legged stool is what we need for maturity in Christ and the mission of God in our time – then bring me that stool!  I think most of you would sit there with me (even if you might personally feel most confident in 6 of those legs) and I’m glad that we could sit together.  And as we talk, pray, and work, may our collective future be built upon, but not limited to, our distinct pasts.    
-Chris Backert

Announcing the Ecclesia Network Coaching Process

J.R. Briggs on the Ecclesia Coaching Process
Click here for more info on Ecclesia Coaching

All Senior Leaders of Ecclesia Network churches are invited to attend our annual Senior Leaders Gathering.
This will be an important time to re-connect, support and encourage one another, and give shape to our developing movement together. We will also be excited to have two special "guests" with us - and in good spirit with the vibe of Ecclesia - one is a charismatic, armininan, anabaptist and the other is a liturgical, reformed, anglican.  Greg Boyd, Senior Pastor of Woodland Hills Church will join us on Wednesday evening to talk about the Power of the Spirit and the In-Breaking Kingdom. Jonny Grant, Rector of St. Paul's Anglican Church in Auckland, New Zealand will join us Thursday morning to share from his incredibly significant book (Divine Sex: A Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hyper-Sexualized Age) on Grappling with the Sexual Challenges of our Age as Pastoral Leaders. This book is theologically creative, coherent, and compelling.  We will begin at 4 pm on Wednesday, May 6th. We will spend the evening together, eating, catching up and talking about what God has been doing among our churches. Thursday morning will also be our opportunity to plot, plan, and pray for where Ecclesia is heading in the future. The momentum of Ecclesia has increased significantly in the last year and we really want to both share this great news and invite you further into it. We will close in time for a long and leisurely break before the Missio Alliance conference begins.  There is a small charge for this. We are covering our "guests" from the contributions that come into the network. The charge is simply to cover food and coffee. We look forward to seeing all of you in just a few months!

4.00 - 5.00: Gathering Together & Catching Up
5.00 - 6.00: Dinner
6.00 - 7.30: Sharing Life & Ministry - As Churches & As a Network
7.30 - 9.00: The Power of the Spirit & the In-Breaking Kingdom with Greg Boyd
8.30 - 9.00: Worship & Prayer
9.00 - 10.00: Where Are We Going Together
10.00 - 11.00: Christian Relationships in a Hyper-Sexualized Age with Jonny Grant

11.00 - 11.30: Closing Thoughts & Next Steps

Register now! 

And don't miss...
Ecclesia Network Dinner @ Missio Alliance

On Friday night, May 8th we will have an Ecclesia Network gathering during dinner and the early evening. This will be a fun time to catch up with friends both old and new. In addition, we will welcome new churches to the network, celebrate with each other what God has done in the lives of our fellow leaders, and hear where we are heading as a community together.
You can register here.

6.30 - Dinner
7.15 - Awards & Congratulations
7.30 - Ecclesia Updates & Direction
8.00 - Welcoming New Churches & Leaders

8.30 - Worship, Prayer, and Communion

Register Now




... And Ecclesia
In-Context Equipping

Bob Hyatt on Ecclesia In-Context Equipping
Click here for more info on Ecclesia In-Context Equipping

Network News

New Leaders' Circles Initiative


We are excited to announce the launch of 4 pilot Leaders Circles within Ecclesia. Leaders Circles are a new effort to increase the connectivity and support of the pastors and staff among the churches in our network. So many of us are working in unique situations in a particular area, but there is great affinity in our particular call with others across the country. Leaders Circles gather around a monthly phone call with others in similar ministry situations and settings. They are for encouragement, support, and shared learning. They specifically are not coaching, discipleship, or mentoring (though some of these things may naturally occur). 
Pilot leaders circles are being launched for women in pastoral leadership, solo pastors, and pastors involved in multi-staff churches. So far, they are off to a great start and we hope to start more in the near future. Stay tuned or let us know if you are interested!


Ecclesia Budget Update


We are excited to share with you, that thanks to the generous contributions of churches within the network and some additional fundraising from our staff, Ecclesia met its budgeted goal for 2014! This is especially exciting since the 2014 budget was approximately 25% greater than the 2013 budget.
In difficult economic times such as these, we are grateful for the support and confidence that a growing number have in our work, as we seek to advance the mission of God among people where it is less present.
In order to be faithful to the opportunities in front of us, the board increased the budget again for 2015 - this time by closer to 33%. You can see a copy of our 2015 budget here. join us in prayer that the funds will be provided to meet this budget! We appreciate your continued generosity in our common work together!


Ecclesia Church featured on NPR and in Relevant Magazine


Redemption Church in Bristol, PA was recently featured in an NPR story on house churches and in a Relevant story on the decline in church building. Ecclesia pastor Gary "Greg" Alloway was interviewed. 

Other News

Terri Dewey will be joining the staff of Eastpoint Church as the Pastor of Worship & Community Life. Terri most recently served on staff at Cairn University, but prior to that she was on staff with New Life Christian Fellowship in Blacksburg.

Aaron Graham, Lead Pastor at District Church recently returned from leading a trip to Israel.

J.R. Briggs & Bob Hyatt recently celebrated the publication of "Eldership and the Mission of God" with Intervarsity Press. This is an important and practical look at church leadership in mission-oriented congregations.

Sharing Resources

Our mission as a network is to partner with, equip and multiply missional churches. 

And as a a relational network we all have a role to play in equipping one another. One of the best ways we can do that is through the sharing of resources we develop in and for our communities with others. 

One of the ways we're doing that sharing is online, on The Table. In our General Resources group, you'll find a place to share resources you've developed or used and find what others are sharing. 

Will you take a moment to log in, join the General Resources group and share what you have?
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