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Unifiers


These 12 UNIFYING PRINCIPLES represent a detailed declaration of our philosophy and response to the call of Jesus.  We see them as a distillation of the core, basic functions of the Kingdom of God in this world.  We've become increasingly committed to these principles since Catalyst first began in 2007; serving as benchmarks for the leaders, groups, and congregations who comprise Catalyst Network.  These are distinct from our Biblical Belief Statements, which are described by the historic Apostles Creed and Lausanne Covenant.  To see these in detail, please CLICK HERE

These UNIFIERS consist of 10 DISCIPLESHIP PRINCIPLES, which we believe are universal for all followers of Jesus; and 2 MINISTRY PRINCIPLES, which are specific to Catalyst Network. These UNIFIERS are the foundational affirmations that bind us all together in a decentralized network; they are what make us…US. “We want to lower the bar of how church is done and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple” (Neil Cole). 

10 DISCIPLESHIP PRINCIPLES (Universal for all Followers of Jesus)

1. HIS CHURCH: We are Jesus’ Church; catalyzing each other to worship Him, build community in Him, and carry-out His mission.

We affirm that Jesus’ people are the Church, and that the living Christ is Her Head.  There are countless church expressions (churches with a little “c”); but there is One Universal Church (with a Big “C”), comprised of all followers of Jesus, everywhere.  It is His explicit desire that all His followers be united in heart and purpose, though the forms will vary widely.  With distracting historical and contemporary examples of corruption, polarization, and apostasy; it is imperative that we focus on the basics….constantly recontextualizing the simple discipleship patterns modeled by Jesus and His earliest followers. One of the most profound aspects of Jesus’ ministry is how he revealed the heart of relational discipleship by dismantling ineffective religious traditions; which we often rebuild to our own demise. The Early Church embodied 3 essential, irreducible functions of WORSHIP, COMMUNITY, and MISSION; giving great freedom for people & groups to express them in their own contexts.  This is the timeless prescription of Church that turned the world upside down and left a legacy we desperately need to recover.  We recognize their example as “True North,” and call on believers of every tradition to join us in pursuit of it in our own contexts.   Jn. 17:20-23, 1 Cor. 3:1-16, Matt. 16:18.

2. REFLECTING JESUS: We shine Jesus’ light in the world by living-out His values, attitudes, and behaviors in our daily lives.

We affirm that the values of Jesus are counter-cultural to the world; and that by embodying His character, we can join His efforts of drawing people into relationship with the Father.  When we look like Jesus, it will repel some and attract others.  We live in the world, yet our primary citizenship is in Heaven; so, we voluntarily surrender control of our aspirations and affections to the Lord; believing that He can be trusted to produce fruit in us & through us as we live differently than the competitive and hedonistic world around us.  We trust Jesus as our King, recognizing that submission and suffering are integral to living as His servants. We also practice submission to one another and to those in authority over us; in order to follow Jesus’ example and renounce the original sin of pride.  We pledge to remain obedient to the direct, active leadership of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives; as well as being open to concerns from others, flexible toward new learning, and repentant in areas of sin and discipline; ever seeking to refine our understanding and commitment to God, together. Mt. 5:3-10,16, Ph. 2:1-11, Jn.3:19-21.

3. SERVING THE OUTSIDER: We do the works of the Gospel by serving poor & marginalized individuals; echoing Jesus’ social posture.

We affirm that active compassion was the primary social posture of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the culture that described Early Christians, and the desperately-needed paradigm for the Church in our own day.  As we dedicate ourselves to serving, befriending, and empowering those outside the margins of society and the Church; we re-present the Gospel of Jesus to those who need it most.  As His redeemed people, we remember that we were once on the outside.  We’re called to sacrifice our comfort on behalf of others who feel excluded, unappreciated, judged, and unworthy.  The demonstration of the Gospel begins with serving those in need; the proclamation of the Gospel follows.  As we “love our neighbors as ourselves,” Jesus’ mission is accomplished as the natural byproduct of service. Matt. 25:31-46, Eph. 2:2:10, Lk. 4:18-19, Lk. 10:30-37

4. PLANTING THE GOSPEL: We plant the words of the Gospel in people’s lives, entering open doors with gentleness and respect.

We understand that every one of us is journeying through a broken and imperfect world; therefore, we commit to be kind, gracious, and patient with others as they explore faith in Jesus. By coming alongside of people in this way, God uses us as His agents to love and rescue people who are lost without Him.  This often takes a lot of time.  We avoid forming condemning views or attitudes toward anyone, and instead pledge to express God’s love for all people; regardless of what they’ve been through, how they’ve adapted to life, or what they believe.  It is inappropriate to expect those outside of faith in Jesus to follow His ways; so, we welcome new people to explore God and community with us, without excluding them based upon areas of their lives that are not yet consistent with the way of Jesus.  At the same time, we partner in God’s work of purifying for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  1 Pet. 3:15, Mt. 9:35-38, Titus 2:11-14, Col. 4:2-6, Eph. 6:19.

5. ONE SAVIOR & LORD: We help each other to reconcile with God through Jesus, dying to self and obeying Him in all things.

The way of Jesus is our way. Before and in all things we value Jesus alone as the image of the invisible God. We long to worship Jesus by imitating his life and ministry. Both our theology and practice are relentlessly Christological. He is our model, mentor, hero, mediator, savior, judge, king and ruler of everything.  All of our values flow from what we understand about his character, concerns, and the practices of his ministry.  In a world of relativity and plurality, we recognize Jesus alone as our Savior and Lord, worthy of our complete allegiance. He is without peer or alternative.  We voluntarily surrender control of our lives to Him; not just once at the moment of salvation, but many times throughout our lives as well.  Acts 4:10-12, 2Cor. 5:14-21, Jn. 4:19-24, Jn. 14:6.

6. SPIRITUAL INVESTMENT: We build intimacy with God by spending time in spiritual disciplines and curating our thoughts & inputs

We dedicate ourselves to growing in relationship with God by investing time & energy into activities that connect us with Him. We implicitly believe in, trust, and endeavor to obey the teachings and practices set forth in the Holy Bible passed on to us by the Early Church. We also practice regular patterns of prayer, both privately and corporately in various forms.  It can accurately be said that Bible study and prayer are like inhaling and exhaling the breath of God; taking in His life-giving principles and exhaling praises and requests.  We champion other practices of worship such as private and corporate praise singing, fasting, meditation, silence & solitude, journaling, rest, celebration, etc.  We do not use these efforts in order to earn God’s love or approval, these already belong fully to believers in Christ; instead, we invest time & attention into being with God out of thankfulness and praise, seeking to magnify His presence within us.  Mark 4:1-20, Matt. 6:1-34, 1 Tim. 4:7, Jer. 29:13.

7. LIFESTYLE WORSHIP: We dedicate our whole lives as living sacrifices to Jesus, who gives us His Spirit to live supernaturally.

We affirm that God created us all as the objects of his affection, and that His desire is to lavish us with his love, abundance, and power in our daily lives. We define worship as our response to this reality; recognizing Biblical worship as a daily lifestyle, rather than a weekly ritual.  As powerful and encouraging as corporate worship gatherings may be, they are merely celebrations and catalysts for the greater work of worshipping while we go about our lives.  Perhaps the greatest gift that God has given us is the indwelling presence of His Spirit; which enables us to see the world as He does, overcome the trials & temptations we encounter in our personal lives, and live supernaturally as His agents in the world around us. In all areas of daily life, we dedicate ourselves to deepening our understanding of the Holy Spirit, discerning the ways in which He speaks to us, and obeying His real-time promptings. Rom.12:1-2, Jn. 7:37-39.

8. INTENTIONAL RELATIONSHIPS: We connect regularly in small groups; to be known & loved, spurred & encouraged.

We affirm that God has created each of us with the need to be known, loved, and strengthened in the context of small groups where true fellowship can happen.  American culture is relationally fragmented; characterized by broken marriages and families, shallow social connections, and illusions of independence.  So, we cultivate healthy relationships in all areas of our lives.  We also develop ministries in ways that nurture belonging for those involved with them; understanding that the significance of our accomplishments in fulfilling God’s work is no more valuable than the relationships we develop along the way.  We believe that the Church is meant to exemplify and perpetuate Jesus’ truth and love to a world in need of Godly models of caring.  Self-sacrificial love is our goal for relationships, as well as a measure of personal maturity.  Heb. 10:24-25, Eph. 4:29-32, John 13:34-35, Col. 3:12-17

9. EQUIPPING THE BODY: We prepare each other to mature in identity, function in ministry, and collaborate in unity.

We affirm that ordinary people are the Church and the practitioners of ministry; and that the role of leadership in the Church is to arrange, prepare, and equip them to carry it out.  All individuals are imbued with destiny and giftedness to live-out God’s design, so we help each other to discover and activate our unique identities in Him. We affirm the use of all Biblical gifts of the Spirit, according to the faith and effectiveness given to those who wield them.  Although the Church is meant to be united in heart and purpose, it is comprised of countless affinities and endless variety.  Therefore, we champion creativity and diversity, rather than standardization and uniformity; encouraging people to express themselves in new and innovative ways.  We celebrate the diversity of every ethnicity and culture in God’s world, each of which reflects an aspect of His multi-faceted image. Eph. 4:1-16, Rom. 12:3-13.

10. EVERYDAY MISSIONARIES: We send each other into the world around us, sacrificing and multiplying to fulfill Jesus’ mission.

We affirm that all believers are meant to serve as Jesus’ ambassadors in their spheres of influence.  Therefore, we work together to carry His mission into neighborhoods, workplaces, social groups, communities, etc.  We sacrifice time, energy, resources - whatever it takes - to expanding God’s Kingdom in the lives of people He sends us to.  He is the true owner of everything in the world; and we are only stewards of what He has entrusted each of us with.  So, we pledge ourselves to be open-handed with all we possess; freely giving ourselves away for Jesus’ mission.  As we give financially toward His work, we are also blessed by resisting the materialism and greed that tempt us toward indulgence and hoarding.  The collective finances of church structures should set an example in this regard.  God joins us together to accomplish His purposes in the world.  Mk 8:34-36, Lk. 12:11-12, 1 Pet. 4:10.

2 MINISTRY PRINCIPLES (Specific to Catalyst Network)

11. DECENTRALIZED LEADERSHIP: We catalyze ordinary people for leadership according to the values-based model of the Early Church

We believe that the Kingdom of God is meant to grow by multiplication rather than addition; like a movement.  Each individual and group should partner with others, who together form the unified Presence of Jesus in their region.  Rather than adopting traditional, centralized models that emphasize highly-gifted professionals and costly facilities to attract potential members; our approach provides an inexpensive framework for sending ordinary followers of Jesus into the world as volunteer missionaries. Decentralization refers to the transfer of control and decision-making from a centralized entity to a distributed network according to an agreed-upon set of values. Following are descriptions of 3 specific elements of Catalyst’s decentralized leadership:

  • SERVANTS– We believe that the function of leadership in the Church is to help others get to where God wants them to be.  Scripture prescribes specific gifts and roles that leaders use to equip the people of the church to grow into maturity in Christ.  Thus, the role of the leader is that of a servant to empower others. The most effective way to identify and empower leaders is through earned authority, rather than educational qualifications or dictatorial power. Jesus’ ministry exemplifies the phrase “faithful with little, faithful with much.”  When people demonstrate faithfulness and effectiveness in small things, they qualify themselves for larger areas of responsibility.  Humility is valued above aspiration.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY – The character traits of leaders in the Church must be consistent with the teachings of scripture and ministry of Jesus.  No one is perfect, but leaders must generally exemplify a living, growing relationship with God.  They must aintain a lifestyle characterized by Godly practices and relationships, “setting an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  This is not possible without regular, personal accountability; therefore, every leader must maintain accountable relationships with other peer & coaching leaders.  In all areas of accountability, we pledge to “speak the truth in love.”
12. MICROCHURCHES: We champion a model of church that affirms, empowers, and releases a network of microchurches that are supported by a city-wide network for camaraderie, coaching, and resourcing.

We believe that small, missional groups are the Most Essential Unit of the Church; and that church organizations exist to serve the smaller, micro-expression…and not the other way around.  Our "definition of church" (ecclesiology) is simple: When a group of likeminded people band together in sincere worship and genuine community to accomplish a part of the mission of Jesus, they are the church.  We call them MICROCHURCHES, and every follower of Jesus needs to be part of at least one. Our aim is to send the Church into the world, impacting every sphere of influence, confronting every form of evil and injustice, reaching every kind of person, in a way that unlocks the genius of the Body of Christ to effectively reach the world with the Good News.  Following are short definitions of the 3 aspects of the Microchurch model:
  • WORSHIP – We pursue unceasing intimacy with the Father.  We affirm that everyone is meant to know God personally in a way that brings understanding, transformation, and closeness. This type of relationship is cultivated as we RELEASE control to Him in order to RECEIVE what can only come from Him.  Intimacy with God grows through personal spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, worship, etc.; as well as lifestyle choices that align us with His purposes for us…dynamically living in a state of worship in our daily lives. We don’t just want to know about God, we want to know Him.  Intimacy is the function of Worship.
  • COMMUNITY – We develop identity as part of the Body of Christ.  We affirm that everyone is dearly loved and cherished by God; with a specific, intended role as part of His family of believers. As members of this family, it is the Father’s intent that we be BELONG to each other; interdependent and committed to encouraging, supporting, and loving one another.  In the context of this type of community, we also spur one another on in our journey of BECOMING like Jesus - not to be identical to one another, but to embody His character in our unique lives, becoming who He would be if He were living in our shoes. Each one of us is designed uniquely to express His presence to each other and the world.  We are committed to understanding ourselves, equipping each other, and learning how we fit together to accomplish His purposes in the world.  Identity is the function of Community.
  • MISSION – We respond to the Initiative of the Holy Spirit in the World.  We affirm that God is always at work to accomplish His mission, and that He invites us to join Him.  His mission is to continue the work of Jesus today: Showing the WORKS of the Gospel by serving the poor, marginalized, and hurting; and sharing the WORDS of the Gospel with those who are lost without Him.  It's like two sides of a coin.  We are people of action who are not content with idle talk; yet we depend upon the impulse of the Holy Spirit to inspire, direct, and empower us according to His own purposes and timelines.  Rather than chasing our own dreams, strategies, or goals; we pledge to be busy about His work, leaving the results to Him.  So we work with God, not for Him.  Initiative is the function of Mission...and it is a dance.