Some practical issues in creating this network
This blog was begun to give a forum to discuss the concept and means by which we can create a New City Network. This network is to help us, as a group, to plant more churches, and to mutually encourage and support each other in being effective in ministry and witness. In order to be a network we have to have an agreement as to what the network is to accomplish, how churches can enter and leave it, what criteria we have for allowing admission or barring such, how we can assist each other in being more effective in ministry and witness. We must then look at the very practical areas of funding it, communication and decision making, when and how to meet, and leadership. We must also make it clear to ourselves and others how we relate to our denomination and if other congregations not in the Presbyterian Church in America can be a part of us. Let me make a few comments about our relationship to the P.C.A. Each Teaching Elder of the P.C.A. is a member of his Presbytery, that is where our discipline rests and the body which issues our credentials. This network will not interfere with that. We wish to cooperate with those Presbyteries in which our churches exist or those who would like us to help them plant such a church in their geographic area. We know that our churches will of necessity need the resources of their home Presbytery to be planted. Our network can bring a certain amount of expertise and experience to the church planting process, and we are need of the expertise of others. This network will support the credentialing process of the Presbyteries while advocating as many alternative routes as are viable and acceptable so as to give more men a legitimate training and preparation for the Gospel ministry. The network may be able to identify certain schools, techniques, or programs that are especially effective in preparing men for the ministry and we may even be able to develop such a program ourselves if necessary. We will of course be looking for that training which is most theologically, culturally, and spiritually sound while at the same time being practically applicable and has the most potential for effective ministry practice. We expect our pastors to be loving to their brothers in the denomination, not outsiders or resistant to Presbyterian polity. If our polity is Biblical why wouldn’t we want our network members to practice it? In fact we have learned that if we are going to ask our brothers to support and include us we must learn the system well, and use it to the best spiritual and practical advantage. Most pastors I know share a certain amount of cynicism for church courts, polity, and procedure. This is normal because most of us like to do the things which are most immediately applicable to our calling. Some others obviously revel in such things because that is the place in which they find their identity and where they spend their time. It is a means (and I think only a means) to an end, just as the council of Acts 15 was a means to continue the effective ministry to the Gentiles. It was not an end in itself, but it was very necessary. Some in our denomination are suspicious of networks, multi-site churches, and even of church planting and evangelism (at least they spend a lot of time criticizing the methods of others while not doing much themselves, it seems to me). Some of their fears are helpful to us so we know how to avoid giving legitimacy to their accusations. All Elders are bishops in that we must be overseers of the flock in the care of souls. We are not seeking to create hierarchical Bishops by having good leadership in networks or multi-site churches. Church history of course is fraught with cautionary tales of church organization that becomes abusive of authority, heretical, and oppressive to the true faith. Yet God did not cancel out the spiritual gift of leadership due to its’ abuse. The idea that an educated clergy would protect us from heresy has not panned out, the idea that a certain kind of polity would keep us from authoritarian overreaching or straying into liberalism has not panned out. Systems seem helpful but all human systems are subject to not only human error but sinful human manipulation. What’s that you say, “sin is the problem?” Yes, and that is our constant struggle personally and corporately. So, we don’t accept the idea that any particular method is necessarily dangerous to our faith, they are at once all dangerous and/or innocuous and simply a method. It always takes vigilance, it takes humility and accountability or else we all slide into what is easiest for ourselves. The New City Network has exhibited that we believe in leadership development. We train our people to be leaders, we call them to it, and we spread it out. We have mostly been spared from any one person trying to control everything. As the founding pastor in Chattanooga I can say that those who have gone out from us, or started independently, have done so many wonderful things and we are always learning from them. We have not sought to control them but only to encourage them when and where we could. We have sometimes purposefully not tried to take credit for any of their achievements yet we will not deny them as our friends and brothers. This network will not be under Mission to North America or Mission to the World, but we certainly hope to cooperate with them here in the United States and in other countries when we plant churches there. We hope and expect that they will help us in identifying, training, assessing, vetting, and supporting church planters because this helps them fulfill their mission and ours.