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Christian Union
November 4, 2016
by Scott Crosby, Director of Christian Union New York

"...the key actor in history is not individual genius but rather the network and the new institutions that are created out of those networks."
To Change the World, James Davison Hunter 

networks-cultureOne of Christian Union's core values is Networked and Engaged Leaders. These values describe the elements of activism and effectiveness necessary for leaders to accomplish spiritual objectives that are deeply transformative in scope and depth. There is awareness that individual efforts alone will not be sufficient, and that there is a paradigm both in history and in the Christian faith that recognizes the network as a key element of change.

One of the interesting traits of twentieth and twenty-first century western Christianity is its individual orientation toward faith. We view faith as a personal faith commitment - my walk with God, Jesus died for me, personal repentance, etc. All these are certainly true elements of how a Christian understands the historic Christian faith.

And yet the broader context is, and always has been, communal. God himself is in community with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Human kind was created in the image of God and also created to be in community. The Church is described as a community of sorts – a body and its component parts. Within the church, the role of liturgy in worship has its roots in this sense of community—that those who come together to worship do so together in the prayers, responsive readings, songs, and confessions of the service.

There are many manifestations of community both within the Christian faith and outside it. Some reflect this part of our basic nature, while other aspects reflect a more prosaic practicality. Networks fall into this category.

The idea of networks that James Davison Hunter speaks of in his 2010 book, To Change the World, is one of those obscure yet critical pieces of the cultural change equation. A growing body of research shows how culture is formed and changed largely through networks, rather than through the efforts of the larger-than-life individual.

Peter Berger of Boston University goes perhaps even further than Hunter in his view of culture and the importance of networks. He observes that, "Ideas do not succeed in history because of their inherent truthfulness but because of their connection to very powerful institutions and interests." The institutions and interests he refers to result from networks of people sharing similar goals and desires.

A key objective of Christian Union New York is the development of overlapping networks of thoughtful Christians pursuing the flourishing of this world through redemptive means. This particularly includes key professions (finance, education, media, technology, the arts, consulting, medicine, law, etc.) – our work. Work is redemptive as it, in its purest sense, reflects God's intent and blesses others. It is also, like everything in this world, profoundly broken through sin. Everyone is painfully aware of the brokenness of many of the professions listed above – broken in ways that do not always lead to the flourishing of others; broken in ways that, at times, lead to the marginalization and destruction of others.

Networks of engaged, intentional, spirit-filled Christians are needed in each vocational and social sphere, laboring to remake norms, values, and structures that lead to God's original intent. Networks that overlap and connect with other networks in similar and different spheres create even stronger networks, and these networks create the movements that facilitate long-term sustainable change—change that is Kingdom-oriented and redemptive, change that allows for Christians to flourish in the work they are called to, and for the world to flourish as the broken things of this world are made whole.

Where these networks already exist, we seek to join them; where they do not, we initiate to develop them. The call to live faithfully and redemptively in this world implies both activism and community in ways that result in transformed lives and a transformed world.

Scott Crosby is the director of Christian Union New York, a ministry to alumni of Christian Union's campus ministries and their peers.