Thursday, July 8, 2010

From Mainframe to Network - Changes in the Church by Terry Somerville

A great transformation in how we do church has been under way for the last decade or so.  It seems that as a culture changes, God leads His people into new wineskins, if they are willing to go. The church that doesn't have fresh wineskins soon looses the wine!  Todays generation places high value on relationship and personal empowerment.  The saints are looking for the ministry God has for them, and the centralized structures of the local church have not served this well. In fact, God means for every believer to be a minister and so He is moving  ministry  into the hands of every believer. 

A good way to understand the transition is to think of moving from a "Mainframe Computer" to a "Computer Network".  I remember seeing the mainframe computer at the University of Western Ontario when I was about ten. It occupied a room as large as a house. It was very large, very expensive, climate controlled, specialized, high maintenance, and if compared to todays PC's , it was very slow.  It could only run a few programs at a time, and had to be run by qualified operators in a safe controlled atmosphere.  Sound familiar?  Bill gates was the radical thinker who began the PC revolution taking the computer into every mans hands.

Today we are seeing a revolution in church wineskins not unlike the Personal Computer revolution.

The  tradition church form is like a mainframe computer.

Features - Large, expensive, operated by a few experts, focusing on a few tasks at a time, operates in one place in a highly controlled environment.

Involvement - A few  users (member)  can have a dumb terminal (ministry), if one is available.  They can only  operate the program  selected by the experts with supervision, after training .

Focus - all focus is toward the mainframe. (church organization)  It exists behind four walls. If it grows larger more terminals will be added, but theres never enough for everyone.  Applications  and programs tend to be specialized and not for the real world.  The greatest vision of involvement is to be a programmer of the mainframe.

The emerging church is like a network of PC's.

Features -  Small,  affordable, ministries operated by anyone, flexible, mobile, and working in any environment. Ministry is worked in the relationships connecting Christians, not a single organization.

Involvement - Each person has a fully operational computer (ministry), with software  that fits the personal situation (an anointing from the Holy Spirit).  Freedom not control is the norm!  Each one is connected to many others in a network of relationships  that help each other.  Focus - Mainframes are still there, but not in control.  The focus is on the application operated by each individual, not a central computer.  Each  computer (ministry) is significant and impacts the sphere each person is in (the world) and the network. (Body of Christ).

This emerging "Network Church" (some call it a Third Day Church) is not based on an organization, but organized connections.  Each "PC"  could be an individual, a home church, itinerants, a marketplace minister running his business, a conventional church. It's a network of  any believer or group walking in Jesus calling. The body actively interconnects because there is life! There is  relationship, support, team ministry, leadership, and larger worship gatherings.

Over the next few years the face of the church will change dramatically. While this illustration cannot completely illustrate the changes taking place, I hope it has been helpful.

Terry Somerville

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Bob for this article, which confirms what the Lord led us to do in our church three years ago. We became a Home Churches Network in our city (Maracay, Venezuela). And thanks God everything is going well.
    I post this article with your blog's link in my Facebook's notes.



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