This is the second in a series of posts on Church 2.0 (based on a Web 2.0 meme-map I found awhile ago).
Web 2.0 represents radical decentralization. For example, instead of downloading files from a central server, software like BitTorrent allows you to download tiny pieces of the file from hundreds of computers at once. Sites like Wikipedia and Squidoo allow anyone to speak as an expert on a topic they know something about (for example, how to juggle, roasting your own coffee, or finding great laptop bags).
Church 2.0 needs to be ready for some radical decentralization, and it’s already starting to happen, in leadership, ministry, and how we think about church growth.
No more "Come To Me And I’ll Feed You" ministries. We (as church leaders) can no longer posture as though we have all the answers or resources that people need. We have to go from "feeding" people to showing them how and where to find food. If you think about it, shepherds don’t actually feed sheep, they just lead them to food, and provide a safe place for them to eat it. The only time a shepherd needs to feed a sheep is if it’s sick and can’t eat for itself. Church leaders have become addicted to the thrill of being needed, though, and have inadvertently gathered people around themselves instead of showing them how to find Jesus. We need to be more like field guides, educating people on the landscape: where the wild food grows, where to take shelter in a storm, where to find fresh water, warning them about poisonous plants and predators, walking with them on the journey if need be.
Also, No more "Man of Power For the Hour" ministries. Churches run by Uber-Pastors can’t survive for long in Church 2.0, because we realize that no single person has all the gifts needed to lead and shepherd a church. Leadership will be decentralized and distributed: it’s about the team. Do all prophesy? Do all speak in tongues? Do all teach well? Do all organize well? Leadership teams are what’s coming next. And they aren’t just an Uber-Pastor with Underlings. Church 2.0 demands truly collaborative, co-equal teams that are radically humble, deferring, and honoring (cos you can’t function on a team if you have to feed your ego).
Oh, and No more "Big For Big’s Sake" churches. There’s nothing wrong with being big, just like there’s nothing wrong with being small. The New Testament does not dictate how many people may meet in one building at one time (and we have to be careful we don’t assume that the way the early church did it is the way everyone is supposed to do it – I hear this a lot – but early church practice does not necessarily equal apostolic doctrine – I’ll have to post on this later). But many churches assume that bigger is always better, and they are simply trying to cram as many people into the building on Sunday morning as possible, assuming that this is their calling.
Hold the phone, though: Is it about disciple-making and kingdom-facilitating? Or is it (again) about ego? What if instead of 2,000 people in one room on Sunday morning listening to one person speak, there were 100 people in 20 different meetings throughout the week, throughout the city, engaged in wildly varied forms of ministry? One group feeds the homeless every Thursday night, another spends a couple hours in prayer every Saturday morning, another facilitates a Bible study for their neighborhood, another meets in a traditional church building on Sunday morning, etc.
There’s nothing wrong with 2,000 people in a building, of course, and those kinds of meetings are important in many ways, but why do we assume that’s the only way to have a church of 2,000 people? Why do we assume everything has to be homogenous? That kind of homogenous, undifferentiated, purposeless growth is called "cancer" in the medical world. Do we want mindless drones to come and listen to sermons and pay their tithes, or do we want world-changing disciples who are radically engaged in kingdom ministry every week? Church 2.0 demands this kind of radical decentralization of ministry. Church growth is fantastic, and it’s something God does, but it doesn’t have to equal more people in one building at one time. Church growth 2.0 will be about depth as well as breadth, but the growth will be decentralized and distributed, the kingdom working its way through a community like yeast in dough instead of gathering homogenously in one location like a cancer.
Of course, there will be challenges. How do we maintain common vision and move forward together as one body, instead of allowing it to turn into 20 autonomous communities that have nothing to do with one another? How do we pool resources to maximize impact? How do we avoid unnecessary redundancies? I think it will take a lot of humility and a lot of trust. Which reminds me…
Next up in the Church 2.0 series: Radical trust.
Bob Harvey says
Thanks for a radically thoughtful article (yeast vs. cancer, I love it). In retrospect, I imagine that the early church was something like this decentralization but it was probably normal to them rather than radical.
Today terrorism already uses radical decentralization. Interesting that they seem to still hold on to the “Man of Power for the Hour”; We can only be satisfied with Jesus who is more than a man. Business has also taken notice of the need for collabrative, co-equal teams and are intrigued by new models, especially Navy seals.
Your reference to “distribution” as it relates to the church was interesting to me as I have been hearing and noticing this topic a lot recently.
Looking foward to your comments on early church praxis and apostolic doctrine.