05 May 2012

Church is a network

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Church is a typical network structure with rich connections at multiple levels, just like the internet. There are many connections and many clusters but only one internet. Church is just the same, lots of connections but only one church.

Diagram of part of the internetHow many churches are there in the world? We don't know, but it must be a very large number. How many in England? I have no idea. How many in the town of St Neots in Cambridgeshire where I live? Ten or eleven?

It's a trick question. Jesus really did not intend to start more than one church.

We have divided what was intended to be one. The church is his bride, a living temple built of living stones. One bride, one temple, one head who is Christ, one church.

Certainly Paul writes of 'our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae' or, 'Greet Priscilla and Aquila [and] the church that meets at their house'. And he writes of  'the church at Ephesus' or 'at Corinth'.

Surely this suggests multiple churches? I don't think so, rather the sense is of one church in multiple places. How can this work? And how are we to get back to such a state of affairs? The answer to both those questions lies in understanding the nature and function of networks.

A well-connected network will have many local clusters internally linked, and wider links connecting across greater distances between clusters. This kind of linking pattern is very familiar, it's typical of the internet, road systems, and electronic devices. In fact it's typical of most network structures that connect multiple points at a range of distances.

Let's see how this works in church life, every member is connected to the head, to Jesus. Taking that as a given we can move on to consider connections between individuals. Jesus said that where two or three gathered he would be there amongst them.

Two or three is clearly the smallest possible size for church. One person is not church. Every believer should be part of a group of two or three, it's the fundamental level of connection, it is the most intimate level and this intimacy is extremely valuable.

We'll look at groups of two or three in more detail in a future post.

Please leave a comment.

Questions:

  • Does the network principle help us understand the nature of connections in the church? 
  • What value do you see in meeting on the micro scale (twos or threes)?
  • Do you have personal experiences with groups this size that you'd be willing to share?
  • Are there any disadvantages of such micro communities?

See also:



< No earlier items | Index | Groups of two or three >

3 comments:

  1. Chris, this is a great and fitting analogy of the church. It brings together the unity, diversity, complexity and inter-relatedness of the one Church of the Lord Jesus in a way that we can truly grasp in this 21st century. Thanks for sharing it!
    Thanks also for the link to christcenteredchristianity.com.
    Blessings, bro.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Chris, this is a great and fitting analogy of the church. It brings together the unity, diversity, complexity and inter-relatedness of the one Church of the Lord Jesus in a way that we can truly grasp in this 21st century. Thanks for sharing it! Thanks also for the link to christcenteredchristianity.com. Blessings, bro


    (This comment from David Bolton was received, but failed to appear. I'm reposting it - CJ)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, David. Your comment turned up in Blogger but not in Disqus. A bit of a puzzle, really.

    ReplyDelete

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