A new structure for the Edge Network

We have recently decided together to change the structure of the Edge Network (the network of church plants within The Crowded House which I lead).

We’ve decided to move to a model of ‘gatherings’ of ‘gospel communities’. We’re re-styling the current congregations and teams as ‘gospel communities’ and these will meet together in two gatherings. ‘Church’ is both the gospel communities and gathering. The gospel community is our primary identity, our place of belonging. So the gathering is a gathering of gospel communities (not a church with gospel communities) though the gathering will offer shared oversight and co-operation between gospel communities.

The gospel communities are being encouraged to see themselves as a community doing mission together. They’re being encouraged to be flexible and adapt to the people they are trying to reach. When they meet they will normally review (or preview) the Bible teaching from the gathering with a focus on application.

The gathering will meet every fortnight. This is partly to reinforce the idea that the larger gathering is not the event during which church happens. Instead church exists in the shared life of the gospel communities.

At present both the gospel communities and the gatherings will take place in homes, but as the gatherings grows we may look for other venues. The gospel communities also have a mandate to consider meeting in the locations where unbelievers hang out (cafes, sports clubs and so on).

The gathering will be led by people we have recognised as ‘leaders’ (or ‘elders’). The gospel communities will have their own leaders who may or may not be gathering leaders.

Our vision for the future is:

— to establish new gospel communities, and

— to establish new gatherings (by dividing into two gatherings of gospel communities).

Advantages

Here are some of the advantages of this new approach as we see them …

This model combines the best of a household model with the best of a gathering of missional communities model (as practised by Providence in Dallas, Soma in Tacoma, Kaleo in San Diego and The Crowded House Sharrowvale congregation in Sheffield).

This model may help us realise our vision of  putting people into leadership sooner and planting around new believers by creating a more integrated, supportive structure.

This model may enable us to combine a strongly contextual approach to mission with a strong emphasis on the transcultural and reconciling nature of the gospel.

This model ensures people experience good quality Bible teaching and corporate worship while also experiencing good quality Christian community with life-on-life, day-to-day discipleship and partnership in mission.

This model consolidates resources. Bible teaching gifts and preparation time would be shared across the congregations, freeing people up for mission. Gospel communities could focus on mission and discipleship.

This model allows people to decide which is the most suitable first point of contact for an individual they are reaching.

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8 thoughts on “A new structure for the Edge Network

  1. Perhaps it’s a combination of time change and my dullness – but I’m a little confused by all the language of the first part. Can you draw a picture a bit like the one you did for missional planning a few posts back? That would greatly help thickos like me!! I think I get it….

  2. Would it be appropriate for members to introduce enquirers to the gathering initally or would the gospel community always be the first way an enquirer be introduced to the Church? I became a Christian in a large Church and was quickly involved in a small group, so for me it seems a good way round.

  3. We are trying to function in a similar structure. I look forward to hearing more as you journey forward. Just one question for those of us who don’t speak real English. What in the world is a “fortnight”? How often does that actually occur??? :-)

  4. Hi Tim
    I’m really grateful you have taken the time to explain this for those of us not involved in the Edge Network. I guess my initial knee jerk reaction to this change was to lament what looked like the passing of a focus on ‘Household church’. However, having looked at what Scripture says about doing church, having prayed through the subject for a while and now finally having read your explanation as to how you are implementing it in the Edge Network, I can see a huge amount of godly wisdom in it.
    Two practical aspects you mention seem particularly important to me. Firstly, the gospel community remains as the primary community and place of belonging. This is also seen as being the place where you gather together to unpack the teaching from the larger gathering, presumably allowing each person to contribute to the discussion, to ask questions, to challenge and be challeneged about how the teaching impacts daily community and individual lives. Presumably it also remains the setting for eating together during which you share the Lord’s supper. Secondly, the larger gathering is held only fortnightly (that’s every two weeks for non-UK readers!)which really does reflect that it is not the primary focus of church life, but enables a wider range of elders to teach and, as you point out, gives a secondary means of ‘first contact’ with unbelievers which can be otherwise lost.
    I have to say it sounds a very wise and very scriptural description of how to go about doing church, such that every believer is a missionary, every believer has an opportunity to minister, both in church assemblies and in shared everyday lives and, above all, in which Christ, and not man, will be central.
    Thank you again for explaining it, even though it leaves me a little envious!
    Enjoy Grace

  5. I’m not sure a diagram will do the job. That might imply that the gospel communities and the gathering were different organisational layers. If I were to draw a diagram it would be two or three circles, each one representing a gospel community. This is the community to which people belong and in which they share their lives. Once every two weeks (= once a fortnight) they come together for a shared event, the gathering, at which the focus is Bible teaching and corporate worship. I might draw the gathering as a circle round all the gospel communities and together they form the gathering, but at best it would have to be a dotted circle because the gathering is more event (a coming together) that an entity.

    In summary: a number of gospel communities which come together every two weeks for a gathering.

  6. Hi Tim
    A further thought just struck me. Although we may not fully agree on how closely we are meant to base how we do church on apostolic example in the NT, I can’t help think that this is a case of where trying to follow apostolic precedent and coming at the question from the application of pragmatic and godly wisdom will ultimately amount to the same thing. As you know the word ‘ekklesia’ is used to describe different gatherings of believers. Your description of how you are structuring things in the Edge Network seems to be to be a perfect description of how the church in Rome appears to have been structured – the entire ‘ekklesia’ in Rome presumably met together from time to time as a whole gathering, but also seems to have consisted of multiple ‘ekklesia’ which met in people’s homes (eg. Rom16:5). Their elders were most likely serving in individual household ‘ekklesia’ and then operated together as the citywide eldership of the whole ‘ekklesia’ in Rome in a similar manner to what you have described in the Edge Network.
    I think you may have unwittingly become a Restorationist after all! :-)

  7. Tim,
    You mentioned the need to be ‘flexible and adapt to the people [each community is] trying to reach’ – how does a community determine their missional focus?

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