Our Network Distinctives 

These are reflections on 8 areas in which we are developing as a body, and seek to continue developing. These reflections are deliberately short and, as is often the case, the pictures communicate more than the words. We hope what follows helps to clarify the atmosphere we are trying to encourage in Network.

You can also download or view the following information in our A5 Distinctives Booklet PDF.

Reversing the gravitational pull of church

This is about a 'go' rather than 'come' mentality. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus sends the disciples out and says he will be with them as they go:
 
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Matthew 28 v 18-20 

Often we are trying to pull people in.  It's about being out in the world and how we live 24/7. The kingdom is compared to yeast "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." (Matt 13 v 33) What a fantastic picture of the transforming nature of the kingdom in the world.

 

Reversing

The people revolution

The Reformation was about the priesthood of all believers. The author Bill Beckham states that what we are experiencing now is the second reformation which is the outworking of this belief in practice as we encourage ‘every member ministry’. The amazing fact of the Gospels is that Jesus through His spirit lives in us:
 
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him not knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
John 14 v 16-17
 
This means that each one of us is empowered and called to the work of the kingdom and not just a special few.

Revolution

Working around centres of energy

Christianity spread through the known world of the first century at some speed.  It was mobile in nature, and was contained and carried in the lives of individual believers and vibrant small communities. We catch glimpses of these through the New Testament writings. 1 Corinthians 16 v 19 comments on the church that met at the home of Aquila and Priscilla:
 
“The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.”
1 Cor 16 v 19
 
This was one of the many centres of spiritual energy that developed and multiplied.  We likewise need to be recognising and encouraging these spiritual centres of energy and giving them freedom to develop and grow.

Energy

Having permeable edges

Jesus spends quite a bit of his time hanging around with people, often people who were thought to be unsuitable to be engaging with. We see a lovely response to this in Mathew's gospel where Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners. 
 
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Matt 9 v 10-11
 
They felt at home with him as he extended friendship to them.  So we need to be ‘open handed’ with our gatherings and make them accessible.  This is particularly true as people want to belong before they believe.

Permeable Edges

Cultivating an Earthed Spirituality that is Jesus focused

I have found it interesting to reflect on how much of church life has been centred on Old Testament ideas and how much is informed by the New Testament.  Now before anyone gets up tight, we believe in the whole canon of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. However, we are called to follow Jesus, and to live informed by his teachings and example. 
 
I find it fascinating that artists down the centuries have painted Jesus as a rather ethereal character in neatly pressed white robes with the all too familiar halo.  Whilst I can understand why this has been done, I think the Jesus we follow is a far more earthy character and calls us to live in vibrant connectivity with our world. The sort of Jesus that would light a fire and cook breakfast on the beach with his friends.   (John 21 v 1-14)

Earthed Spirituality

Nurturing Authentic Friendships and Healthy Community

The Cambridge online dictionary defines a friend as: ‘a person whom you know well and whom you like a lot, someone who is not an enemy and whom you can trust. Jesus calls us his friends:
 
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
John 15 v 15 
 
So from the basis of our friendship with Jesus we create friendship with others.  Authentic friendships are those that are committed to the friendship without pre-supposed outcomes.  They are also friendships that engage and deal with the real issues of life.  From this foundation healthy communities can be formed and flourish. 

Authentic

Holding Deep Convictions but Being Unfazed by Questions

Our beliefs as Christians are distinct and form the basis for our values and actions that flow from them.  For others to understand this link between beliefs, values and actions I think we need to engage more in questions. Dare I suggest, invite questions around what we believe and why.  Jesus invited and asked questions all the time:
 
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
Matt 16 v 15-16
 
Across the 50 episodes in Mark's gospel, Jesus asks 52 questions. These questions engage him in healthy dialogue with people around issues of faith. Let's become like Jesus and ask good questions.

Convictions

Stimulating Faith Development through Participation at Every Stage of the Journey

The idea of life-long learning has become increasingly popular. As Christians however we have gone for the more knowledge-based learning style rather than the apprentice model that is more closely linked to discipleship.  It is interesting that Romans 12 v 1-2 starts with our bodies and moves to our minds …

“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Faith Participation