Leadership Pipelines for Digital and Physical

So it takes lots of different forms and much of that has to do with the context that they’re in. In some cases they’re in persecuted places where, they have to function in underground, which causes them to be forced to be small and reproducing, which we’ve found actually works better from a gospel saturation standpoint and a leadership development standpoint and amassing large gatherings that are more difficult to replicate and tend to, I mean, they all have all the different expressions have their own strength and weakness. But one of the weaknesses of a larger gathering is the leadership development pipeline tends to weaken and the gospel saturation in a given area tends to weaken, versus other expressions or other forms.

Jason Morris via Reed, Jeff. “PODCAST 050: Biblical Function of a Digital-Only Church, Part 1.” PODCAST 050: Biblical Function of a Digital-Only Church, Part 1, TheChurch.Digital, 24 Feb. 2020

Jason’s words really struck me. Jason’s perception that leadership pipelines (or development) weakens in larger organizations seems counterintuitive.

I’m not sure I fully agree with him on this, as house churches and even digital churches only can have additional leaders if those leaders are part of the community.

Digital, though, does tend to gather folks who in physical space might not meet leadership criteria for physical, while they do meet leadership criteria digitally. I’m sure this doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, especially those in physical space leadership.

Digital lends itself to a flatter or distributed leadership/service structure. Not always, nor is it necessarily clean. Often digital leadership is pretty messy, in fact.

What digital does allow is to “take it with us.” Digital breaks the boundaries and barriers of physical space, allowing greater creativity and operations.

Jason’s point, in particular, is the church in persecuted areas (or, as my denomination calls such places, Creative Access Areas). Digital truly does free them to not be in physical proximity in large groups, yet still create a form of synergy.

While we in the US are not in a persecuted area (despite claims to the contrary), digital experiences in the persecuted areas ought to be viewed as learning opportunities for us. That the church continues to grow in those persecuted areas should cause us to see how what works there might work here, while not elevating our physical mentality to a point of arrogance.

Part of the struggle is the concept of saturation.

I once attended a church planting conference where the leader taught that 3 churches (of the same tradition) showed a greater tendency of synergy. I can buy into that, but with a caveat.

Our denomination, for example, has a number of churches in Seattle, yet the synergy isn’t there. Will it get there? Not really sure. But is shows that synergy is not automatic. People have to work at synergy.

While Jason delivered an accurate picture of what he is seeing, this does not guarantee its replication. Part of that is the underlying culture of the area. Another is a perceived need to be connected to be effective and discipled. These are not strengths in the current US context.

I will agree with digital naysayers that digital is not a panacea. I will agree with the digital champions that digital is a tool, a tool for the Gospel that we ignore, disparage, and diminish at the risk of failing the mission that Jesus gave his church.

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