Pioneering sociologist Manuel Castells referred to the emerging social structure as the Network Society—a global societal construct enabled by microelectronics-based information and communications technologies. A society that resembles in form and function the network connecting computers and digital devices across flows of multimodal communication in physical and digital localities called nodes. A social structure that is an expression of the machinic infrastructure of boxes and wires, cables and satellites, chips, servers and relays.
One reality of a network society has been called “Glocalization” (the combining of globalization and localization) which is a trend that started back in the 2000s. Technology enabled human beings to simultaneously both universalize and particularize social, political, and economic systems.
In order to fully embody the compassion of Christ in the world, we must reimagine the nature and structure of the church for this new scenario. We envision a network church for a network society. This involves the planting of fresh expressions of church in communal ecosystems, and (re)missioning inherited congregations as blended ecologies, to create a sustainable future.
Rather than offering a diverse, networked, and hyper-connected world a single Eurotribal franchised version of the church, we need to pivot into a contextual and distributed mode.
The Blended Ecology of Church envisions communities as an “ecosystem” of both traditional forms and fresh expressions of church living together in symbiotic relationship… “Deep Roots, Wild Branches” (Romans 11:16-24).
The most hopeful signs of the future church being planted today can be seen in a blended ecology of inherited and emerging, as well as analog and digital forms. This requires not only a reimagining of the parish, but a shift to shared leadership, distributed power systems, and an awakening of the “priesthood of all believers.” Denominations that survive will adapt to a new form of network and learn how to move from regulation to resourcing.
The blended ecology is deeply rooted in a scriptural vision of the church. It is, in fact, the deepest story of our communal life, springing forth from the modes through which God historically dwells among us. So, what are the primary ways God’s withness manifests among God’s people? God’s presence fills the whole universe; there is nowhere one can go where God is not. However, there are primarily two modes of how God has gathered people around his presence throughout history:
1. A stationary mode: a fixed place where God dwells—attractional—God invites us into God’s holy space. This has become embodied in the church as an Attractional Model, which consists of a “come to us” kind of strategy. “If you build it, they will come” is attractional church’s motto. This is a stable, centered presence deeply rooted in a place, that draws everyone in orbit into worship.
2. A mobile mode: God dwells with us on the move—incarnational—God moves into our space. This is manifested in the Missional Model, which consists of a “we go to them” strategy. This is an incarnational and relational approach where we enter the world of the other and stay. It is a mobile, dispersed, scattered, presence, running wild in the earth.
This is clearly an oversimplification of these two modes; however, when local churches understand that withness primarily manifests in these two ways from cover to cover in the Bible, it can have a transformative impact. Most churches operate primarily in one of the two modes, but what are the implications if a local church can embody both? The deepest structural narrative of the community of faith in the Bible is not Jerusalem or Antioch, the gathered or the scattered, the inherited or the missional, the attractional or the contextual, it’s the blended ecology. The blended ecology is gathered and scattered, it’s inherited and missional, it’s attractional and contextual, it’s deep roots and wild branches.
We are a network of churches, existing together in covenantal relationship, committed to the shared values of the passio dei.
We seek to cultivate new faith communities in a blended ecology. The four unifying values of these communities are:
· Inclusive: a manifestation of God’s outreaching love.
· Accessible: culturally appropriate, close, and contextual.
· Transformative: empowering spiritual growth and equipping for works of love.
· Networked: existing in a relationship with each other and the wider church.
Being a partner in this network, provides resources, imagination, and a community of support as we go about the work of cultivating compassionate expressions of Jesus in the world.
 For example, see Numbers 11:27–30, where the impulse is regulating unauthorized prophesying… “stop them!” Moses responds with resourcing. In Luke 9:49-50, when the impulse is to regulate an outsider performing exorcisms, Jesus instructs them to “do not stop him.”
 Jeremiah 23:24.