Amidst the polarizing, fragmenting, and empire-building forces that seem to be rearing their ugly heads throughout evangelical Protestantism lately, the Ecclesia Network remains for me something of a refuge. Ecclesia, as both a context and a family, is committed to and united by a modest, yet deliberate and substantive engagement with the various facets and issues of North American Christianity. It’s this sort of posture that I believe sets Ecclesia apart in terms of its unique contribution to the lives of leaders, churches, and, through various initiatives and resources, the broader evangelical community.
To point to just a few things that excite me about Ecclesia, consider the following…
A yearly national conference (the next one being just about a month out), that seeks to help church planters and pastors wrestle with some of the most pressing issues of mission and ministry from the perspective of those who take seriously the challenges (perhaps better understood as happy opportunities!) of Post-Christendom.
Over the last 4 years, we’ve brought together leading voices, including those of women and minorities, to help us wrestle with the practical issues of incarnational expressions of ecclesial life. In each instance, this has been done without pomp and circumstance, opting instead for a subdued environment where the focus is on encouraging one another, building relationships, and giving a good deal of attention to God’s presence and work in our midst. In this way, our national gathering remains vitally connected to the rest of our lives, relationships, and ministry.
A leadership podcast that offers listeners a window into the lives and thinking of local church planters and pastors who are either in or connected to the Ecclesia Network. Backed by the genius and savvy of Mr. Todd Hiestand and John Chandler, esquire, this podcast is just getting going, but there’s some good ones in there already. Check out the latest podcast w/ Chris Backert, who, at long last, is offering to the world (in multiple parts no less!) some blog posts. In part of the podcast, he talks a bit about Missio Alliance, an initiative I’m privileged to be a part of and will no doubt be writing more extensively in regard to in the future, but the rest of the podcast is a great introduction into the way Ecclesia has come about and what it “feels” like.
Aside from those things, Ecclesia is also involved in church planter training (here’s a bunch of great audio from the most recent training session), coaching, and publishing. Ecclesia also initiates and sponsors regional events like this one in the Northeast, this one in the Northwest, and the Missional Learning Commons here in the Mid-West.
This is all good stuff. None of it is completely unique; others seek to offer similar resources and opportunities. What means the most to me, and what is simultaneously the biggest encouragement to me as something like the Missio Alliance gets underway, is the manner, character, and quality of all this work. Like I tried to communicate above, as I look around and see so much discord and angling for influence across the evangelical landscape, I’ve just never gotten that taste from the people and work of Ecclesia and I’m grateful for this band of brothers and sisters.