Liquid church? Networked church? What are you talking about!? Typically this is the reaction many of us have – especially those of us who have been part of the church in North American for more than a few years. The thought of church possibly being something quite different just isn’t plausible – especially if what we have been doing “works.” May I suggest these concepts are foreign because we have no alternate experience and/or we are so busy with what we know we don’t take the time to imagine or even investigate alternatives that may “work” so much better.
So what does a networked or liquid church look like? The good news is that there are many examples of liquid/networked chruches. The bad news (for us moderns that want to systematize everything) is that they are not models but ways of life. Adullam in Denver, Colorado, is one such way of life. Here is their story of beginning followed by a description of who they are – they use the term “village”:
“Adullam began without a name and without plans to start a church. Hugh & Cheryl Halter and Matt and Maren Smay moved to Denver in 2003, after leaving their respective church plants to centralize their ministry of missional church plant training. They work with a missions agency called Church Resource Ministries and have spent the last four years training leaders in how to be “missionaries” in North America. While traveling and training around the country under the name “missio” they simply lived what they taught. The focus of our training is that you don’t begin with a structure or a church strategy; you begin with people. The missional flow is to engage culture, form community, and then structure congregation as people naturally draw together for God’s purposes in their city.
“The first year we simply lived out the gospel in our neighborhoods and it began to draw a group of people from our local Starbucks and began discussing what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God. As time passed this group began to grow and eventually we had to acknowledge that we were “church.” Hugh & Matt still lead Missio and spend most of their time training leaders. You can find out about Missio at www.missio.us. Adullam is not where we go to church. Adullam is our life, our friends, and the people we are on mission with. We can honestly say, that we’ve become church by trying not to do church.”
“Rather than simply calling us a “church”, it is more accurate to describe Adullam as a network of villages. Our villages are clusters of friends throughout the city in which community, communion, and mission unfold as a way of life. We believe we will touch upon the needs of the city most when cells of Jesus followers seek to bless specific neighborhoods in which they live. Currently, we do gather these communities together weekly for a larger gathering, but the essence of who we are can be found when peering into the window of our villages where you may find folks raking the leaves of a neighborhood, reading scripture together, or brewing a batch of ale.
“We believe people typically find God when they encounter his people. The village is the context we’d love to bring those who need the love and care of God’s people. It’s not likely we’ll pair you with a particular village since they work best when formed fresh and naturally like (much like brewing a batch of ale).
“What’s it like to be in a Village? A typical village is ranges from 6 to 30 people who establish their own “rhythms” for their experience together. A typical example over the course of a month might be to meet several weeks for common spiritual conversation around scripture, a good book, etc. One week focused on mission, service or social justice, and one week where you just have a big party to connect friends together. In addition to weekly times of gathering, we encourage spontaneous connection so proximity to people is critical.
“Can you put me in a Group? NO. As you can tell, it takes time to develop synergy with people who share common practices and mission. If you spent time and energy forging deep relationships, the last thing you’d want is for complete strangers to show up out of the blue each week.
“To experience Village life, we recommend you come to the “Gathering” on Sundays to make natural connections and let people get to know you. You can also let the leadership know of your desire and we’ll help you connect with people in your niche of the city. You can also simply start one from scratch. The leadership is here to help you and all you have to do is let us know and we’ll coach you.
“We also have Village Leader Training about every 6 to 8 weeks. We won’t just stick you in a group. But we will do everything we can to help you find your way into a village.
“How do the Villages and the Gathering integrate? The Gathering is a place where the communities come together to see what God’s been doing amongst us. Right now we only have one weekly Gathering (Sunday Morning) but we hope that there will be several Gathering points throughout the city as we grow.”