In this series, we have been focusing on a new model of how to be and “do” church so that multiplying discipleship may occur. In previous pastor pages I have described how the embrace of both inherited forms of church (think established ways we have done traditional church for a long time) and new forms of church (think “pioneering” ways of being the church moving into the future) leads to a synergism that fosters new life for all of First Church—but particularly fosters transformation in Christ, Changing Lives Inside and Out.
The primary way that we are living into the new/pioneering model of Church here at First Church is through the Acts Network. Mitch Marcello is our primary staff person who works with the Acts Network, but we have a number of you who are beginning to lead Acts Network groups. Because this model of ministry is newer to us, we understand there are many questions around it. Therefore, I have asked Mitch to provide some answers to some basic questions in the hopes that his responses will give us even more clarity and also help foster excitement about how God is moving among us. Mitch shares the following responses to the following questions:
1) What is the Acts Network?
A Network of fresh expressions of the church which exist to connect with non-believers and the unchurched primarily outside the walls of the existing church. The Acts Network creates forms of fresh expressions of church to bring the church Jesus loves closer with the people Jesus loves. All seek to be meaningful, incarnational communities of faith. The goal is to be a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of those who are not yet members of any church. Currently, we have nearly 300 individuals connected in the Acts Network.
2) How are Acts Network groups connected/tethered to First Church?
Acts Network leadership overlaps with the rest of the church at both a staff and laity level.
Acts Network leaders share in a covenant based off the United Methodist vows made by everyone who joins First Church.
Acts Network participants are encouraged to give electronically to First Church when they reach a certain level of maturity in their discipleship.
Certain times of worship (such as Christmas and Easter) and service opportunities (such as Transform) are encouraged for all Acts Network participants to share in with the rest of First Church.
The Acts Network operates out of the same DNA and under the same Vision of “Transformation In Christ, Changing Lives Inside and Out” as the rest of First Church.
3) What makes Acts Network groups different than small groups?
Small Groups, in general, exist primarily to train and nurture those who are already part of a church body. Acts Network groups are specifically started for those currently outside the community of faith. However, Acts Network groups do need Christians who are mature in their faith and willing to pioneer to be part of their groups in order to be a faithful witness throughout the community and world. At the moment, approximately 33% of participants in the Acts Network are not connected with a church or active in their faith. We would expect this percentage to continue to go up as the Acts Network grows into new venues outside of Sunday morning expressions of church.
I so appreciate these responses from Mitch and would ask for your continued prayers for all of the Acts Network as we seek to most faithfully be God’s church in the world today.