Introduction to the Acts Network
Updated: Jul 6, 2020
1: Who is involved in the Acts Network?
The Acts Network was launched in 2014 when First United Methodist Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania made a faithful step towards a growing Kingdom vision. Mitch Marcello became the Director of the Acts Network, and began to develop Acts Network communities in Williamsport. Years later, the Acts Network burgeons in partnership with what God is doing amidst the people connected with the Acts Network. This growth is leading to more leaders being raised up to cultivate and support more communities. These leaders are being established not only through the congregation of First Church, but also from partnering churches.
2: What is the Acts Network?
The Acts Network is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily to reach those who are not yet part of any church. Each Acts Network community is contextual and seeks to connect with people in ways which are meaningful and accessible in their context. Due to that incarnational and missional mobility, we have opportunities to build relationships with people through the Acts Network who would otherwise not be connected with a church.
Often, these relationships are formed into communities around affinities in order to create a common ground upon which to invite and build relationships. Examples of Acts Networks which have formed around affinities include groups around rugby, yoga, the gym, tobacco pipes, and dancing. Other Acts Networks groups have developed as well in contexts such as a house church, college ministry weekly dinners, community meals, and bible studies in the workplace and in a local coffee shop.
Though Acts Network groups can be fully-formed worship expressions in any given context, there intentionally exists a spectrum of religio-spiritual centeredness. This spectrum allows a group and a people to be met where they are both physically and spiritually, and allows for maturation over time in a way which builds authentic and deep-rooted relationships with Christ and community.
As Acts Network groups solidify and mature, the Network allows for collaboration, community, and sharing of resources between groups. These Network ties create opportunities for the empowerment of other leaders who are listening to the social context and rise up to develop a meaningful expression of Church to meet the community.
A vital point of collaboration within the structure of the Act Network is a tie, or “tether,” to an established church body. As Christians, we are called to unity in mission (Ephesians 4:3), which intended to bring life and support to all of the members of the body of Christ. The tether of the Acts Network groups to established churches should provide support, encouragement, leadership development, and accountability. This partnership between the established churches and the Act Network groups in the community create a more dynamic and accessible community of Christians.
3: Why should we invest in the Acts Network?
The Acts Network addresses a world and culture that are constantly shifting. Fewer people are attending church on a Sunday morning but the message of God’s love has not changed. Because of this, we have the obligation of exploring how we best can connect with those who are far away from God and intentionally build communities and relationships for the sake of Christ.
If more and more people will not come to a church building, we must bring the church people to them.C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison comment in their compelling book Slow Church: Cultivating community in the patient ways of Jesus, that we have structured the institutionalized church mentality in a way which, “limits church life to the four walls of a sanctuary rather than a mission that moves into the neighborhood” (49). The Acts Network provides the vehicle for churches to invest in a mission that moves out of the sanctuary and into the neighborhood.
Jesus himself showed us that building the Kingdom meant gathering together as a community of believers, and going out to build communities which share the heart of God with those who do not yet believe. Jesus made a habit of being in and teaching in the synagogues where believers gathered (Luke 4:16), and he also took the good news to towns and homes for all to hear (Luke 5:32; 7:36; 8:1). Following the example Christ set, our spiritual forefathers understood that Church is the people of God, not the building, and they met where the people were at (Acts 2:46).
4: How does one develop an Acts Network group?
Discipleship is a journey, and as disciples of Christ, we are called to walk that journey with others (Matthew 28:16-20). As you consider what it might look like to develop Acts Network groups consider the following stages:
1) Listen – Take the appropriate amount of time to listen. Listen to the context, to where there are needs in the community, to where people may be open to conversations and sharing life together. Pay Attention
2) Love and Serve – After listening well, love and serve in tangible ways. By loving and serving, we have an opportunity to have deeper relationships and build trust.
3) Build Community – As you love and serve, a community will start to form and life will be shared.
4) Explore Discipleship – From the community that has been formed, we look for ways to explore discipleship together. Discipleship is at the heart of every Acts Network group as we seek to have these communities know of a God who loves them.
5) Church Taking Shape – As a community starts to explore discipleship a church will start to take shape. As this happens, each group will implement elements of worship contextually.
6) Prayer – The entire journey is undergirded by prayer. Every step of the way we lift these efforts to God and seek wisdom and discernment about how to connect with those far from God.
5: How to get involved.
If you would like to get in contact to see how you might take incarnational steps in your community and join the efforts of the Acts Network, you can reach out using the form on our "Contact" page.
Learn more about the Acts Network at https://firstchurch.cc/actsnetwork/
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