What’s the Purpose of the AFFN?

Chris Alford:

Chris Alford, Founder and Board Chair

Chris Alford, Founder and Board Chair

As visibility of the Ancient-Future Faith Network increases, folks sometimes ask how it came to be and why we are taking on this task. Where to start? Do I talk about the desire to promote “The Call to an Ancient-Evangelical Future,” or our goal of providing a cross-denominational place to resource and encourage our members? Or maybe I should talk about our great hope of helping Ancient-Future Faith Churches get started.

Why in the world would we put in the hard work to form a non-profit organization that has to do with worship and spirituality?

Here’s the short answer:

It’s for you! We believe that God has called us to build this Network to resource and support people like you who long for renewal in the church.

And here’s how it happened:

The Ancient-Future Faith Network sprang up from the grassroots, from genuine need. It all started in early 2010 when several of us sensed that the Holy Spirit was especially at work in the renewing of the evangelical church and her worship– and that He wanted to use us in a particular way.

In Sacramento, California, God led a group of believers who were admirers of the late Robert E. Webber to form “Epiclesis: An Ancient-Future Faith Community”, the first-ever church start built from the ground up on the principles Bob had championed during his remarkable life. They eventually called me, a proud graduate of the Webber Institute’s inaugural Alpha class, to be their lead pastor. As we began the ministry, we became increasingly aware that the Spirit was stirring in similar ways in the lives of men and women, both in and outside of established church settings, across the United States, and from other parts of the world.

logo_mark_450We began hearing from like-minded people every week (sometimes even daily) who hungered for a depth in worship and spirituality that would link them with countless generations of believers before them, and who desired to walk out their baptisms in a community that would call them to live an authentic faith. A vision began to emerge, especially in my heart and a small team of Epiclesis elders, to consider whether the Spirit might want to build a kind of network to connect like-minded people. Later, the leadership of the AFFN expanded to include others outside of Epiclesis, and it not only includes IWS graduates, but other ministry leaders who share the vision and mission of the network.

That’s why we’re here— that’s the purpose of the Ancient-Future Faith Network: Reaching out to share with and encourage those who may be working on common ground and walking down a common road. We believe in that purpose so much that we’ve dedicated an enormous amount of personal time and resources to make it happen.

Some helpful things I really, really want you to know:

  • Why a Membership that Costs? This is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization led by a dedicated board of directors, and we exist to further several important ministry goals. In order to accomplish our purpose we need resources. Our modest, voluntary membership fees help toward that end. We created several kinds of membership levels so that the terrific content on our website would be available to a wide audience, and so that folks could choose the best place to plug in. Voluntary membership fees are tax-deductible and add up to just a few cents a day. There are also some wonderful, free things to do on the website.
  • The Website: Our net traffic is simply amazing. We’re working very hard to bring you an information-packed website– and it’s an important part of our visibility. From the Abbey and the Knowledge Base, to the Chapel and the Marketplace, we want this site to be a help and a blessing to you. I’m hopeful that you’ll take advantage of it all and thoughtfully consider submitting materials to the Abbey.
  • Robert Webber Materials and the Bookstore: Joanne Webber, Robert Webber’s widow, is an enthusiastic member of our Board. From the beginning of our ministry, we wanted this organization to be a place where Webber’s legacy both continues and broadens to reach a growing number of diverse people and places. The Webber materials at the AFFN, some of which are exclusive to us, were made available through Joanne’s generosity. Part of our desire to maintain a high-quality website is to be a steward of those materials. Items for sale in the Robert Webber Bookstore belong to Joanne– they come from Bob’s personal collection from his publishing and workshops– and we’re making them available to the public on her behalf. The AFFN does not receive any monies from the sale of these items and all proceeds go to the Webber estate.
  • The Institute for Worship Studies: While we’re not officially connected, we love and support the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. Part of our role is to champion its work and mission, as well as be a help and blessing, where we can, to its faculty and students. Quite a lot of our Network members have no connection or history with the IWS, by the way, so we love to steer people toward the Institute, as well as expose them to Ancient-Future materials that they might not have otherwise found.

And the Near Future?

We’re working on three initiatives right now that I’m especially excited about: Cloisters (regional groups of people just like you gathering to talk about all things Ancient-Future); The Chapter House (a virtual/online, recurring gathering of our membership and friends to focus on special topics); and an Ancient-Future Faith Church Foundation (where folks starting A-F churches, or working in existing churches, can turn to for grants). Please pray with me about these wonderful opportunities, and be sure to contact me if you’re interested in learning more or helping.

And finally…

You are welcome here. You may be serving in a place of joy and fulfillment and would like to share what God is doing, Ancient-Future-wise, in your ministry. You may be serving in a place of difficulty and hardship, facing leaders who are indifferent or even hostile to renewal, and would like to learn more about how to implement Ancient-Future principles in an effective way. You may be interested in learning how to plant a new Ancient-Future community of faith.

The members of the Ancient-Future Faith Network are the very heartbeat of our growing family. And we urge you to reach out to them, engage, and join our number. You’ll be received with a warm embrace. Whether you’re here to give, take, learn, teach, encourage, or be encouraged— this Network is for you.

The Lord be with you!

Chris Alford

One Response to What’s the Purpose of the AFFN?

  1. Carl Peters
    Carl Peters February 23, 2016 at 1:47 PM #

    Thank you for sharing the AFFN vision with us, Chris. It is compelling. I am grateful for this network and how the members of it ministered to me through some of the darkest days of my ministry. What’s more, I am delighted to participate in the furthering and broadening of Dr. Webber’s legacy of worship renewal. His work continues to be a corrective to the narcissism and pragmatism that have directed the church and her worship for far too long. Recovering historical and classical Christianity and God’s story of salvation history are a strong prescription to cure our fading ecclesial strength. In light of the many competing narratives vying for attention in these days, Christianity must learn to remember again. Then, we must begin to retell and reenact God’s story…in our worship and in our lives. May God continue to bless the work of the AFFN.

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