Rationale for the Network Church
Simply put, the Network Church is the body of Christ communicating on line making use of a technology that can be used, and should be used, for the glory of God.
The apostle Paul emphatically stated, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some" (1 Cor. 9:22). Translated into twenty-first century terms, Paul's words would certainly include the Internet among the "possible means."
The Internet serves as an avenue for evangelistic outreach in the twenty-first century much as the invention of the printing press did in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The Network Church affords numerous possibilities for encouragement and support of local pastors, as well as leadership training for the local church.
DCB Communications respects the pastoral ministry of the local church. Its role is to supplement and enrich. In addition to the published and posted on-line resources offered here, a few of the on-line possibilities include:
David C. Brand, working in concert with, and subject to the oversight of, other Christian leaders, who are themselves part of particular Christian congregations of the evangelical faith, provides oversight to this online ministry. Mr. Brand welcomes feedback from others believing that "as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Prov. 27:17).
Doctrine of the Church
Cyprian, a North African church leader, once said, "He who does not have the church as his mother cannot have God as his Father." The apostle Paul wrote that "Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy by the washing of water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephes. 5:25-27).
Jesus' love for the church that nurtured him, cost him his own life blood. His heart's desire was to gather that nation-ekklesia unto himself, but she was obstinate and uncooperative. "If you, even you," he pleaded, "had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes" (Luke 19:42). "The kingdom of God will be taken away from you," he said to his own Jewish nation, "and given to a people who will produce its fruit" (Matt. 21:43).
The Church received her true foundation from her crucified and resurrected Lord: "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner" (Matt. 21:42 RSV). The Church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone" (Ephes. 2:20). "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11). God's intent," Paul insisted, "was that now through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:10-11).
The Church is at once charismatic, catholic, congregational, and presbyterian. It is charismatic in the biblical sense of that term. The Greek word charisma literally means "grace gift," or a "gift freely and graciously bestowed." To affirm the charismatic nature of the Church is to affirm what the apostles affirmed concerning her spiritual giftedness and divine origin. The Church is called into being by God himself (Acts 11:18; 1 Cor. 12:1-3). It is not an organization instituted by men, but an organism created by God. Each member, accordingly, is gifted with a manifestation of the Holy Spirit for the benefit of the whole Church (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:4; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; 1 Pet. 4:10).
The Church is catholic in the sense of its universality owing to her relationship and unity with her head, the Lord Jesus Christ. This relationship and unity is preserved through the means of grace Christ has appointed for her upbuilding:
Without her regular devotion to these means, the Church would gravitate toward the parochial, sectarian, and cultic.
The New Testament Church is essentially congregational, as distinct from national or hierarchical. This simply acknowledges what Jesus himself said: "For wherever two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matt. 18:20). The proclamation of the Word which brings men to the knowledge of God, and the church's experience of joyful worship of the living God are, at their foundational level, the ministry of Christ himself "in the presence of the congregation" (Heb. 2:12). The literal meaning of the Greek ekklesia behind the English word "church" is the called-out ones, ie. those who are called out of the world to serve the living God. Accordingly, the church is the "gathering," the "assembly," or, if you please, the "congregating" of the called-out ones.
To be congregational in the historic sense (See Cambridge Platform V.2-VII.9), is also to be presbyterian. Our English word "presbyterian" is derived from the Greek word presbuteros meaning "elder." Presbuteros designated the same New Testament church office as the Greek episcopos commonly rendered "overseer" or "bishop" in English (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:6-7). A plurality of elders (presbuteroi) rather than a single elder (presbyteros) or bishop ruled over a local congregation. The rise of the monarchical bishop presiding over a number of churches within a geograhical area was a second-century development. While the New Testament church was not presbyterian in its essence (i.e., churches were still churches before elders were chosen [Acts 14:23]), it was presbyterian with respect to its proper order.
It seems clear from the manner of appointment of their Old Testament counterparts (Deut. 1:13; cf. Exod. 18:2), as well as from Luke's use of the Greek verb keirotoneo in Acts 14:23 to describe their appointment, that the consent of the congregation was involved in the selection of elders. Keirotoneo was used in the Greek city states to describe an election by the show of hands, and that is its literal meaning. It was so used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:19 to describe the selection of a brother "by the churches" to accompany the apostles in the administration of a monetary gift for the saints in Jerusalem.
The fact that apostles initiated the selection of elders in Acts 14:23, or that Paul used a less democratic Greek term in Titus 1:5 to describe Timothy's appointment of elders, no more contradicts their election by the people than Moses' appointment of elders in Exodus 18:21 contradicts what is clearly their election by the people in Deuteronomy 1:13. It seems clear in both cases, the Old Testament and the New, that the will of the people was involved in the selection of their elders. The earliest Christian writing following the completion of the New Testament, the Epistle of Clement (ca. 95 A.D.), while not canonical, nevertheless corroborates the literal meaning of keirotoneo in Acts 14:23. It specifically notes that the selection of elders in the first-century Church involved the consent of the people.
The jurisdiction of elders, however, extends no farther than the congregation that elects them. This does not rule out ministries that extend beyond the local congregation, or the gathering of local church leaders in synods or assemblies for particular purposes that advance the peace, purity, and unity of the churches (Acts 15).