In the final month of 2012 the mission of ACT3 made some significant shifts in strategy and vision that I hope readers of my blog will note in the coming weeks.
- First, we added the word “network” to our public name, thus becoming ACT3 Network. The name “network” has become popular in the age of the computer because it describes what happens when you connect two or more computers together so that they can share resources, thus creating what we call a computer network. But the word network has been around much, much longer. Traditionally, social networks were made up of people who might gather face-to-face, forming social units and human groups or communities. Today’s social networks are increasingly online but I am convinced these networks will never replace the traditional forms of people making networks that are non-virtual. I see this as a both/and, not an either/or. ACT3 intends to be a social, spiritual and viral network, both online and in person. We believe the two will grow more accustomed to one another over time because God made us for such fellowship and partnership. ACT3 will now more deliberately reflect this growing reality.
- We also altered the mission statement slightly. Previously we said that we purposed to “equip leaders.” Now we say that we will “empower” leaders. The word “empower” has plainly become a contemporary buzzword but the word itself is not new at all. So far as I can tell it arose in the mid-17th century with the legal idea “of investing with authority, or to authorize.” Then, like so many English words, it evolved further to mean “to enable or to permit.” Both of these uses still survive but now the word has a broader, and often much more shallow use, both in politics and pop psychology. One online dictionary says “the modern use [of empower] originated in the civil rights movement, which sought political empowerment for its followers. The word was then taken up by the women’s movement, and its appeal has not flagged.” Now the word empower has been adopted by conservatives as well as radical social reformers. It has even migrated out of the political arena into other fields, including the idea of empowering leadership in the church. Though I recognize the danger of this being a buzzword I also think it is a dynamic and modern expression that says more than the word equip, which sounds like a synonym for “teach” to many modern hearers. ACT3 does teach but we do much, much more. We work alongside of leaders and churches consulting, advising, serving and helping. All of this is part of empowering.
- Finally, we made one more subtle, but also very important addition to our mission statement. We now say that “we empower leaders and churches for unity in Christ’s mission.” Previously, we did not have the word “churches” and now we do. This actually clarifies our primary focus – to bring about renewal in the visible church in America and beyond. We believe in the church. When more and more Christians are dropping out of the church, often for compelling and heart-rending reasons, we still believe in the church because the church belongs to Christ, whether or not the form or appearance meets with our approval or not. We agree that the church is deeply impacted by its own captivity to culture in America. But faithful presence (a rich term coined by sociologist James Davison Hunter) requires us to never write off the church since it belongs to Christ. This is true even in forms of the church that are compromised and weak. We do not believe the way forward (in most instances) is to create new schisms or to deny past divisions. We need to honestly face the sectarian impulse of much of Western Christianity and then respond to it with a compelling vision of unity in Christ’s mission, not our ideology. This is at the very heart of the ACT3 story and vision. It displeases on the right and the left, ideologically, but it is our vision and we intend to empower people to grasp it and live it out.
If you would like to receive our ACT3 Weekly email, and thus follow news, information, events and requests from ACT3 then please subscribe at www.act3network.com. While there you will see our brand new website as well. I hope you like it. In the next two months we intend to do a lot more to improve our online presence. Your prayer and financial support makes all this possible so please let me hear from you if you can take a few minutes to respond. And please consider giving a gift, or giving regularly, on the secure donation link at www.act3network.com. I would be so grateful for your involvement with us in this growing catholic vision for Christ’s church.