Microchurch and Blockchain

November 27, 2023

What if microchurch movements could be an avenue for refounding (à la Hirsch) the church on the person of Jesus in its original movemental form, which was a decentralized, multiplying community of disciples who existed within and beyond the gathered expression?

There is a lot of talk about the decline of “institutions” these days and the need for counter-institutions. I don’t agree with everything here, but Aaron Renn has an interesting article on how a counter-mainstream DNA is needed to renew institutions without a “negative identity” (you are what you are against) that simply adopts the same institutional forces that led to decline in the first place. 

Herein, the blockchain metaphor has some value. In other words, if prevailing model ecclesiology is like centralized banking, then movemental-microchurch ecclesiology is like blockchain currency.

Metaphors function on the level of hermeneutics. When we read “in the church at Antioch…” (Acts 13:1), Christendom ecclesiology (centralized “bank” metaphor) is often imported, eisegetically, into the text. Instead, the blockchain institution more closely resembles the nature of the church in the NT context. The Bible serves as our source in demonstrating movement principles, but sometimes we need to first unlearn concepts/traditions in order to properly exegete the text. Metaphors can help.

 

In the context of movemental ecclesiology, where the emphasis is on decentralized and grassroots expressions of biblical faith and community, a blockchain institution could be compared to a network of interconnected microchurches. Here’s how this metaphor might help us reimagine the nature of the church (with the help of ChatGPT):

  1. Decentralization: Just as a blockchain is decentralized with no single central authority, a movemental ecclesiology encourages the decentralization of the church. Instead of a hierarchical church structure, there are numerous microchurches with unique expressions. 
  2. Nodes as Microchurches: In the blockchain, nodes are individual computers that participate in maintaining the ledger. In this metaphor, each microchurch could be seen as a node in the network. Each microchurch operates independently, but is connected to the broader movement through shared principles, beliefs, and values. 
  3. Transactions as Spiritual Connections: In the blockchain, transactions represent the transfer of value between participants. In the context of the church, these “transactions” could be symbolic of the spiritual connections, relationships, and interactions that occur within and between house churches. These interactions may include sharing of resources, support, and collaboration on various aspects of faith and community life. 
  4. Consensus as Shared Vision: Just as blockchains use consensus mechanisms to agree on the state of the ledger, microchurches within a movemental ecclesiology may use consensus-building processes to align around a shared vision or set of principles. This type of distributed leadership helps maintain the cohesion of the movement despite its decentralized nature. 
  5. Immutable Faith and Values: Similar to how data on a blockchain is immutable, the orthodox beliefs of the church remain unchanged and consistent across the system. These principles serve as the foundation upon which each microchurch builds its unique contextual expression of faith. 
  6. Transparency and Accountability: Blockchains are known for their transparency, and in the metaphor, this could represent the transparency and accountability that microchurches have with one another and with their members. Open communication and shared values ensure that each microchurch remains aligned with the broader movement’s goals.

 

The blockchain metaphor in this context highlights the decentralized, interconnected, and transparent nature of microchurches within a movemental ecclesiology. Each microchurch operates independently yet contributes to the strength and resilience of the motus Dei, much like nodes in a blockchain network maintain the integrity of the ledger.

This metaphor solves some of the problems inherent in institutional ecclesiology by decentralizing authority, promoting transparency, and enabling adaptability. In this network of interconnected microchurches, power is diffused, relationships are fostered, and the movement remains resilient, effectively addressing issues related to hierarchy, bureaucracy, and rigidity often associated with traditional institutional structures.

*This article first appeared on Circumpolar.

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