Ecclesia is a small network (20 churches). There are no super-stars leading the network. It’s bent is missionally-oriented and theologically centrist. It’s important to point out that Ecclesia is not a denomination, nor does it attempt to be one. It’s a relational network of churches. There is accountability, but it is not hierarchical. The goal is not control; the goal is synergy and unleashing. The network has a national director, Chris Backert, who works 15 hours a week in his role also co-pastors a church plant in Richmond, VA. Chris is in the process of finishing up his doctoral dissertation in missional church networks in a post-denominational era of the North American Church.
All of these factors were important to us. We wanted to be a part of a small and intimate group of churches. We didn’t want it to top-down, super-star driven and we wanted people speaking into our faith community honestly (even if it isn’t what we wanted to hear at times) but without a desire to control or micro-manage us. It’s a privilege for me to serve on the Board of Directors of the Ecclesia Network.
I believe that every church should be a part of a larger arena of accountability to be challenged and encouraged to further levels of impact, engagement and faithfulness – Ecclesia or not. If you are a church planter (or a potential church planter) let me encourage you to consider being involved in a network. Ecclesia isn’t the only good network out there. There are a handful of networks that I would endorse. Here’s why we believe that it’s important to be in a network (and why we believe that Ecclesia is the right network for us):
 Submitting ourselves to authority is a biblical concept that we find to be extremely important. Being a church plant – especially being a non-denominational church plant – we wanted to make sure there was a group of gospel-saturated leaders who to which we could submit ourselves to in order to speak into our lives and provide honest assessment of our health, mission and vision.
 We believe in the importance of planting healthy churches. And we believe in movements that help unleash what the Spirit is up to in creating new things. I/we want to be a part of something like that. But we want to do it in a way that is faithful to the Spirit, to the Scriptures and to the context in which its being birthed. Part of the way we grounded philosophically and practically is through the network.
 It has cultivated deep friendships. Pastors are strange birds and sometimes we need to connect with some other strange birds. Some of my closest ministry relationships are with pastors in the network. Church planting can be lonely at times. But these relationships remind me that I’m not crazy – or that yes, in fact, we crazy, but that it’s okay. It’s great to pick up the phone and call to celebrate something you know others will celebrate, to vent when things are difficult or to bounce a few ideas or seek our wisdom from others who may have some experience in specific areas you do not. These pastors remind me that I am not alone.
 It’s a space for significant learning, both formally and informally. We should always be learning and growing. Ecclesia offers formal training and equipping through the annual National Gathering each February, regional gatherings throughout the year, Aggelos church planters’ training each May in Richmond, VA and a fundraising/support raising training (held just a few weeks ago). In addition, there are other informal avenues for growth and maturity: relationships, book recommendations and discussion, regular accountability, visits, phone calls, talking shop, etc.
 It helps us appreciate the body at work in its various forms. Just because we’re a part of a network doesn’t mean that we’re all the same. The Ecclesia Network in missionally-oriented and theologically centrist, which means church – depending upon context – can take on various expressions. My friends within Ecclesia who pastor in Hollywood, Baltimore or Austin, lead differently than Renew – and that’s a good thing. I need to learn from them.
 It provides opportunities for local, regional and national networking and collaboration: We are a relational network, meaning that we’re always looking for connections with other people. I love it when conversations start with “Do you know _____ who’s doing great stuff in _____? You guys need to connect…” For example, it’s a privilege (and a great deal of fun) to have partnered with The Well (an Ecclesia Church in the Philadelphia area) to host the Scripture and Culture Event two weeks ago.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the Ecclesia Network check out the website or feel free to contact me.