Still working on a good definition of “church” .  Jon Seabourn at Mindless Musings has a great quote from David Wells’ The Courage to be Protestant:

The truth is that without a biblical understanding of why God instituted it, the church easily becomes a liability in a market where it competes only with the greatest of difficulty against religious fare available in the convenience of one’s living room and in a culture bent on distraction and entertainment. … constant cultural bombardment of individualism, in the absence of a robust theology…”

We advertise our presence, but Church is not a product to be marketed.  We adjust our approach, but should never compromise who and what we are.  For without a robust theology, it’s not church.

Good discussion from Alan Hirsch on the nature of networks as they relate to churches.  In his posting, he starts with a basic description of networks, nodes and hubs.

Networks can be physical, like the internet -a collection of interconnected nodes of information.  Or they can be social, like joining the Rotary club or finding friends on Facebook or MySpace.

For Christians, the concept of networks can apply to a network of churches.  Whether this is an association of churches in the denomination or a monthly gathering of pastors from multiple denominations in a community, these associations are built on an understanding first that the other churches exist, and that there is some mutual benefit that may come of the association.

The concept also works as networks of individuals.   Consider the network created when a church member – a member of one node – attends a community Bible study.  When these members of individual churches join for the community study, they create a network.

As Hirsch puts it, “The effective performance of a network over time and distance will depend to a large degree on the cultivation of shared beliefs, principles, interests, and goals- perhaps articulated in an overarching ideology. This combination of beliefs and principles together form the cultural glue, or reference point, which holds the nodes together and to which the members subscribe in a deep way.”

The impact for churches is that they share knowledge, relationships and experiences they receive at one community (potentially) with every other community they participate in.  What used to be a one-to-one relationship is now a network of support.  This is important for small churches, who are often unable to do great things by themselves, but may learn of another congregation doing similar things so that the two (or more) can partner to do greater things than one alone.

In the Dec 21, 2007 edition of Forbes Magazine, Dale Buss reported that “CEOs may have a lot to learn from their counterparts running evangelical megachurches.” The pastors and business leaders interviewed for the article say that business has a lot to learn from how churches are run. In fact, a lot of today’s business manuals are based on the idea of “servant leadership,” a concept straight out of the Bible!

Running a church of several thousand is in fact a lot harder than running a substantial for-profit business. For example, in a business, the motivation to show up each day and work hard is money and career aspirations, and it is the company leadership that provides that external motivation. In a church, the motivation is all internal – the people come for their own intrinsic reasons. More than that, they often give time and money to the organization because of only a 30 minute speech by the “Chief Encouragement Officer.”

Using data from Harvard social scientist Robert Putnam, Buss gives us 8 key lessons from the pastors of the healthiest megachurches in America, lessons such as casting a vision and showing gratitude, doing regular reviews and saying no so you can do the important things well, and focusing their passions in ways that help the organization, instead of boosting their own ego or status in the community.

I encourage you to read the article for yourself. There’s a lot of meat in that one quick page. This is the stuff revolutions are made from (though some of the people who have commented so far don’t quite “get it”).