The Story of COVnet by Thomas F. Reid
Over fifteen years ago, I sat at a meeting at the Crystal Cathedral listening
to United Methodist church growth expert, Lyle Shaller. In the middle of his
lecture, he looked at us and said, "I am a United Methodist, and I want to tell
you that we are living in an area when denominations are dead. Oh yes, they
will continue to exist, but the future of the church is networking". We
discussed this subject for the next two hours, however, I found it impossible
to believe. Over these past fifteen years, I have gradually seen the
denominational world becoming less relevant to the contemporary church and
pastor. I also began to observe the emergence of networking between churches
As I watched these networks emerge in the American church, I remembered what
happened to my ministry over twenty years ago when we began to explode in
growth in our local church. I remember feeling that I was preaching to more and
more people, and knew less and less of their names. As a result of a trip to
Lakeland, Florida where I heard the ministry of Dr. Roy Harthern and Dr. Cho
from Korea, I became interested in cell groups. When I returned to Buffalo, we
started to meet with people that I felt could become cell group leaders. Within
the next year we developed over 246 cell groups in our church. As the city of
Buffalo was divided into district, we also developed district leaders over
sections of the city. Within the next two or three years, most of these
district leaders started churches, and eventually our church opened thirteen
other churches throughout the western New York.
I then came to the realization that I had a 'network' of my own, the churches
that we had mothered throughout our area. I realized that to some extent that I
had lost intimate contact with these pastors, and a desire began to flood
inside of me to establish a deeper relationship with my own churches. I
recognized that I already had a network of churches.
In the midst of this discovery I accepted a speaking engagement in Johnstown,
Pennsylvania at the Johnstown Christian Center for a new friend, Reverend Gary
Tustin. Gary told me that he also had a network of pastor friends, and asked if
I would assist him in building a network in his area. I accepted the challenge.
We then met with David Thomas of Youngstown, Ohio, who also had his own
network, and with Reverend Ron Hembree of Cornerstone Television network, who
also had a group of ministers who had build a strong relationship with him.
This was really a 'network of networks.' We came together in Pittsburgh, and
again in Youngstown, Ohio, and worked on a doctrinal statement and a
constitution. We then met with an attorney, and COVnet became a reality. Other
groups contacted us, and today we continue to expand the ministry of his
network of networks.
COVnet is an idea that we believe was born in the heart of God. It is not a
replacement for denominations, as many of our churches are already part of a
denomination. It is a forum to develop close interpersonal covenant
relationship between those of us who desire to be related to other ministers
and ministries on a closer and more intimate level.
We have several types of networks. Some of our networks ordain their own
ministers. Others are established for the purpose of a specific mission. Their
churches may belong to various denominations, but they have united as a
network, not only to establish closer relationships, but to accomplish a