The Summit Fellowships began in 1990. They are a community of small-group churches in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. Typically numbering about 12 to 20 persons, they meet in neighborhoods, businesses, college campuses—wherever a small group of people can congregate. Each small group is a functionally autonomous congregation that is voluntarily interdependent with other fellowships of similar vision. The term “summit fellowship” refers to the style of meeting in which all present are free to participate and contribute within the scope of their gifting and comfort level (1 Corinthians 14:26). Other terms that reflect a similar style include “open church,” “cell,” “home church.” and “Simple Church.” The video clip below does a pretty good job of explaining what we’re about. (The video clip is produced by the Foursquare Church. We think they got it right, even though we’re not affiliated. We thank them for it.
Such congregational life has been practiced in one form or another since the first century, often becoming prominent during times of renewal in the church. The Wesleyan revivals are a good example of such a resurgence. We have borrowed the term “summit” from a movement among institutional church leaders called “Pastor’s Prayer Summits.” In these gatherings, pastors from diverse backgrounds and traditions, go away together for a four day, no agenda, prayer time during which they worship, pray, minister to one another, and share meals together. Many who have attended such gatherings report that their understanding of the church is being transformed by the experience.
“Summit fellowships” translate that “open church” dynamic to a congregational life that encourages the free participation of every member as part of the priesthood of all believers, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or gender (Galatians 3:28). We do not recognize a system characterized by a clergy/laity distinction. Summit-style gatherings typically include a shared meal, friendship, informal discussion, prayer, and worship. In addition, there may be a formal teaching, group ministry, and “reunion/celebration gatherings” where several fellowships assemble for a larger group celebration. Sharing the covenants of communion and baptism are also a part of life in and among the groups.
Furthermore, as a network in the Columbia/Wilamette Region we want to…
- Encourage, build up, and cooperate with the “church of the city.”
- Provide start-up help to “open churches” (summit-style churches).
- Provide linking opportunities for existing summit congregations.
- Serve as a point of contact between summit congregations and the broader Christian community.
- Serve as a clearinghouse for resources that compliment open church goals.
- Identify, encourage and recommend equipping gifts (Ephesians 4) as needed among the churches.