Our home computer died recently. After a few feeble efforts on my part to repair it, I realized that it required the attention of an expert. The diagnosis: for nearly the price of a new computer it could be restored—maybe. That was enough to persuade us to move from the repair department to the sales department.
But after a few minutes with a salesperson, it was evident that this process was far more complex that I had imagined.
Rather than providing simple answers, the salesperson asked more questions: Did we need a laptop or a desktop? How much did we intend to spend? How much RAM? How many gigahertz? What make and model? What programs do we use? By the time we left the store, I was ready to buy a box of pencils, a pad of paper, and a roll of stamps.
When I got home I decided to take a different approach. Using another computer I began to research computers online. But I soon discovered that I could never begin to assimilate the information from thousands of computer-related websites. I still felt lost.
It was then that I decided to turn to my best source of information: others who had recently purchased computers. I asked coworkers, friends, and family members about their computers. My best recommendations came from people under 40. They were overflowing with information, knew what questions to ask, and gave me good, practical advice. I realized that I should have started the process with my network.
In my work as a pastor and church member, I have often discovered that the best information doesn’t come from one source but from many. Good, healthy, vital churches and strong, compassionate leaders can benefit from a multitude of resources and connections.
Experts in church life can provide insights and information. Books and the Internet can bring the latest and some of the best thinking to the table. Other churches and church leaders are great resources. While all these resources are valuable on their own, the combined wisdom they provide is even more helpful.
That’s the thinking behind the recent establishment of something called “The Network: Connecting Churches for Ministry.” This new ministry initiative of the Christian Reformed Church will connect churches with resources to help them enhance their local and global ministries. Churches will be able to connect with experts. Reference materials and resources will be readily shared and matched to specific needs.
Most important will be the ability of churches to connect with other churches that are facing similar opportunities and challenges. It has been my experience that the best ideas are discovered and shaped when church leaders share ideas and resources. While experts are important, and the right tools make the work of ministry much more effective, it is the network of connections that most enhances the work of the local church.
Paul describes the church as the body of Christ, where every part is linked to every other part. That is certainly true within the church, where every part and every gift is needed. It is also true in the denomination and in the broader church of Jesus Christ around the world. The Network is one tool that churches can use to strengthen the connections that enhance ministry.
It will be some time before The Network is fully up and running. Tools are being developed; websites and connection points are being created; volunteers are being recruited; staff members are being trained. All of this takes time, but we hope to begin to have resources available within the next few months.
I hope that this new network will serve you well. We are the body of Christ, called to do his work. Together we can and will transform lives and communities worldwide.