Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Wineskins Ministry Networks -- Will They Work?

A KEY component of the New Wineskins Association of Church (NWAC)’s strategy is ministry networks that will connect congregations to one another. If this step fails then NWAC will ultimately fail. Will these networks really work?

Several years ago I was on the Long Range Planning Committee of the Presbytery of Olympia. General Council gave us the task of reorganizing our Presbytery. Oh joy!?! The Presbytery had more committees than you can possibly imagine. A committee automatically had its moderator be a member of General Council (meaning: form a committee to gain the power of being on Council). The Nominating Committee had an impossible time finding enough people to fill all of the committee slots. Council had many meetings where they did not have enough members present to have a quorum. Change was need. We spent several years getting input from the Presbytery and eventually coming up with a “flattened” structure: a smaller General Council, fewer committees and more task forces. Presbytery meetings would be transformed: less time having reports “read” to us and more time for training and the equipping of our church members and leaders. We were going to let the church that would host a Presbytery meeting plan the worship and that church’s pastor would preach (this was “demanded” at a Presbytery meeting). Guess what happened? These changes were too difficult for most of our good-old-Presbyterians. That wasn’t the way they were user to “doing” or “being” Presbytery. Things today are almost totally back to the way things were before the Presbytery was re-shaped!

NWAC believes that the structure of the PCUSA is top heavy and does not focus on the front lines of ministry, the local church. Their networks are a paradigm shift seeking to change our ineffective church structure. I believe that if the networks fail the whole NWAC will fail.

The NWAC ministry networks will not fail! In checking my e-mail inbox this morning I found a message and list of every pastor and elder that attend the NWAC meeting from Washington and Oregon! This e-mail did not come from NWAC office; it came from an elder of a church! The Washington contingent already has a gathering planned for the end of September. Various pastors in my Presbytery are gathering THIS WEEK! The networks in Washington and Oregon are forming. The network is beginning to form.

What will these networks accomplish? The networks will be made up of churches that bind themselves together to assist each other in worship, ministry, mission and accountability. The pastors will meet regularly for support and accountability. They will answer questions such as:

  1. Have you been with anyone since our list meeting which might be seen as compromising? Explain.
  2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?
  3. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?
  4. Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?
  5. Have you given priority time to your family?
  6. Have you fulfilled the mandates of your calling?
  7. Have you just lied to me?

The pastors will also agree to “A Covenant to Care.” This covenant covers areas such as availability, consistency, prayer, honesty, confidentiality and grace. Equipping and fellowship groups will form from the churches in each network. These groups will also have covenants they will follow.

What will hold these loose knit groups together?

Common Biblical beliefs, theology and ethical imperatives will be the foundation upon which these networks will be built. The DNA (to use Rick Warren’s term) of the churches and the pastors will be the same. Each cell in a human body has the same DNA, yet each cell has its own “calling.” The PCUSA does not have a common DNA so there is disunity and mistrust. NWAC has a common DNA which helps to foster unity and trust.

Time will tell if the ministry networks of the NWAC will actually work. NWAC will have a high probability of success if networks form and begin functioning before the February ’07 meeting in Orlando.


At 3:02 PM , Blogger Classical Presbyterian said...

Though I am not in the NWAC this is great stuff!

The work that you describe is truly glorifying to God and your ministries and churches will prosper!

Would that other biblically faithful pastors in our denomination could do this as well! Possibly then God would bless our efforts to save this dying denomination.

At 2:15 PM , Blogger Red_Cleric said...

Being one of those who also recieved that email I know that a few of us in the Oregon section will gather next Monday.

I also have visited with another pastor who is not part of the NWAC and we're talking about a joint men's retreat (a first for our church) and I'm going to broach a possible mission involving Adult Literacy in our urban setting (that with Episcopal and Southern Baptist as well as Presbyterians.

Great blog keep up the work and may God bless you real good


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