This network would be the heartbeat behind the Soma Centers. And the Centers would be a tangible manifestation of a unified network of believers. Here are some potential details for the network, apart from what I wrote in the post I just linked to.
1a) Members – Individuals who feel a solidarity with the Network, and feel like they can both benefit from it, and serve through it. Membership with any particular church is not necessary, although intentional fellowship with other believers is strongly encouraged. The payment of minimal yearly dues would be required, except in the case of financial hardship, in which case volunteer effort may be substituted. Members would have privileged and discounted access to Soma Centers.
1b) Sponsors – A Member can choose to be a sponsor by increasing his or her commitment to contribute to the Soma Network and/or Centers through extra financial donations, or volunteer efforts. A Sponsor would have priority access to Soma Centers, in many cases free of charge. This is not special treatment for the rich (especially since volunteer effort is an option,) rather it is an incentive to encourage an extra level of commitment, which will be necessary to make the whole operation possible. Nevertheless, Sponsors will never be considered a higher class of individual, or be given any kind of public praise.
2) Member Churches – Denominational or Non-denominational churches who wish to identify with the call for unity in the body, and participate in the “body life” made possible by the Soma Network and the Soma Centers. The payment of a small percentage of the church’s budget would be required, except in the case of financial hardship (in which case volunteer effort could be substituted,) or a decision not to make use of the Soma Center’s facilities. A Member Church would have privileged and discounted access to Soma Centers.
2a) Sponsor Churches – You get the picture by now. Sponsoring would involve a higher level of giving and/or volunteer effort from the church itself, and priority/free use of Soma Centers.
3) The Public – Anyone desiring to use the Soma Center for a purpose that fits within the general scope and guidelines of the facility will be welcome to do so, at full price, and after full consideration is given to the needs of Members and Sponsors. Ideally, though, “full price” would still amount to a lower rate than one would encounter at the average community rental facility.
I know a lot of this sounds like just another megalomaniacal ordeal; a victim of the Edifice Complex; a mammoth project worthy of the Bible Belt. And it would be a large undertaking, without a doubt. But in the end, the purpose is not just to throw money at one more program or building fund. Ultimately it is to allow each church to do more with less, to be who God has called them to be, and avoid the pressure to meet every need and run every program.
It’s ok for each church to be quirky and unique and gappy. In fact, it’s perfect. But when those gaps start to become obvious to those with real unmet needs, that’s where the larger body has got to be able to step in. Why should a loyal member of a house church with a unique need have to choose between defecting to the local megachurch, or seeking secular gatherings in order to find what they need? The Church needs to be there for them, and it needs Unity and Intentionality in order to do so. Those are two characteristics I imagine for the Soma Network.
With something like this in place, eventually more and more gatherings of believers would become satisfied with simplicity, with meaningful fellowship and organic worship, not having to wonder if they’re missing out on the diversity and complexity of the larger body, but knowing that a vibrant, dynamic connection exists at all times to truly flesh out the body of Christ.
Here is my silly little dream sketch. Enjoy!