PRIMARY SOURCES

Various documents used as primary sources for the information presented on this site

PRIMARY SOURCES AND OTHER DOCUMENTS

Many of the documents we reference throughout this website are presented here. Please use these documents to arrive at your own conclusions. If you find anything on this site which runs contrary to the information contained within these documents, please bring it to our attention and we will address it.

We are interested in surfacing a growing list of documents for the purpose of transparency and critical thinking. If you have documents you think will be of interest to people who have left The Network, please send them to [email protected]

JUMP TO SECTION:

  1. Training materials
    • 2008 Network Overseer Training - Steve Morgan
    • 2015 Small Group Leader Training
  2. FIRST PERSON ACCOUNTS FROM STEVE MORGAN
    • 2011 Our Story and How We Do Church - Steve Morgan
    • 2012 Planting Healthy Churches - Steve Morgan
  3. Bylaws and membership forms
    • 2018 Network Leadership Team bylaws
    • Misc. Network Church bylaws and membership forms
    • Explore how bylaws changed over time
  4. Leadership policies and staff documents
    • 2011 Potential Church Planter Checklist
    • Questions of Character and Integrity (leader checklist)
    • 2007 Vine Church Employee Manual
  5. Miscellaneous documents
    • 2016 Act Like Men Foundation Church Retreat
    • 2021 Cedar Heights Church Building Campaign
    • 2011 Network Church Planting Fund Brochure
  6. Teachings and Sermons
  7. EXPLORE ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTS ON NOTOVERCOME.ORG →
    • 2016/2017 Vista Church Series
    • 2015 Learning to Pray for Others
    • 2020 Membership Bible Training by Luke Williams
    • 2013-2015 Small Group Discussion Topics (24 month cycle) by Nelson Liu and Luke Williams

Diagram from "Small Group Leader Training Week 4 - Relational Leadership" (pg 1) - loyalty is listed as the highest level on the relationship progression pyramid

TRAINING MATERIALS

 


 

2008 CHURCH NETWORK OVERSEERS TRAINING BY STEVE MORGAN

This training at the 2008 summer conference occurred shortly after Steve Morgan formed The Network. The audience consisted of "overseers" from all Network churches (pastors and church board members).

In this training Steve redefines "accountability", asserting that overseers should create an environment of "protection and safety" for the lead pastor and insulate him from the members of the church. This corroborates the lack of meaningful accountability and the conflicts of interest present in the leadership structure of The Network. A reference and link to this recording has been added to our article No Accountability: How The Network’s leadership structure undermines local churches and creates conflicts of interest for board members.

PARTIAL CLIP - ACCOUNTABILITY SECTION OF TRAINING:

FULL SESSION AUDIO:


 

2015 SMALL GROUP LEADER TRAINING

This training outlines the manipulative small group growth methodologies required of group leaders. We have confirmed from multiple sources that all churches within The Network were required to use this curriculum and were not permitted to edit or deviate from it. Metadata from the files indicate the files were written by Scott Joseph and Nelson Liu in 2015.

These documents make clear that the primary function of small groups is to create a pipeline which will multiply the group and thus grow a church large enough to plant additional churches. Any caretaking or pastoral functions of Small Groups are secondary or used as a method for gathering people to grow the church. Compare these methods to the "8 signs" presented in the article "8 Signs of a Dysfunctional Church."

Photo by Milo Young from Pexels

FIRST PERSON ACCOUNTS FROM STEVE MORGAN

 


 

STEVE MORGAN, Our Story and How We Do Church 2011

This document is Steve Morgan's version of how The Network developed. Some see in his account a deeply spiritual man who was propelled by special revelations from God, though others see in his hyper-spirituality a willful attempt at obfuscating the truth and offering spiritual explanations for manipulative and abusive behavior (described in the article 8 Signs of a Dysfunctional Church)

Note: There were two versions of the "Our Story" document, one which was available to all staff members and one which was for pastors and church planters

Note II: Names of people who were not pastors, staff members, or board members, as well as sensitive information, have been redacted from these documents

 

 


 

STEVE MORGAN, Planting Healthy Churches 2012

This document outlines Steve Morgan's methodologies for church growth. It was given to all church planters as an operating manual. Compare these methods to the "8 signs" presented in the article "8 Signs of a Dysfunctional Church"

Note: Names of people who were not pastors, staff members, or board members, as well as sensitive information, have been redacted from these documents

 

 

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

BYLAWS AND MEMBER FORMS

 


 

2018 NETWORK LEADERSHIP TEAM BYLAWS

These bylaws mark the formal transition of The Network from a loose confederacy of related churches to a centrally governed organization. This document is referenced in our article "How are Network Leaders Held Accountable?"

Created in 2018 after City Lights Church exited The Network, these bylaws establish the Network Leadership Team as the governing body of The Network (Article III, General) and cement the power of the Network Leader (Steve Morgan) by granting him sole authority to appoint people to the Network Leadership Team (Article V, Officers and Leadership). This document endows broad powers to the Network Leadership Team, including the ability to amend local church bylaws at will (Article V, Officers and Leadership).


 

NETWORK CHURCH BYLAWS AND MEMBERSHIP FORMS

The following bylaws and member forms represent the contract between church members and their Network Churches. As The Network developed, these bylaws became increasingly strict, mandating:

  • Weekly attendance at small groups and weekend services
  • A minimum 10% tithe per member
  • Free labor be provided at no cost to the organization
  • 20 hours of classes from non-public documents
  • Allegiance to church leaders.

 

EXPLORE HOW CHURCH BYLAWS HAVE CHANGED OVER TIME

The following documents from High Rock Church show how these bylaws have evolved over time. Tap the "expand to read more" button to see a summary of prominent changes between the versions of these bylaws.

MEMBERSHIP FORMS OVER TIME

Church membership forms evolved over time in much the same way local church bylaws did. The examples below demonstrate the growing demands placed on members of Network churches. The included 2017 reaffirmation of membership letter was sent to all members when Bible Training classes became mandated and when prohibitions against same-sex marriage were introduced to the bylaws.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

LEADERSHIP POLICIES AND STAFF DOCUMENTS

 


POTENTIAL CHURCH PLANTER CHECKLIST 2011

This checklist was used as part of the process for lead pastors to apply for Network Church Planting Funds to pay the salary of future church planters[1]. Pastors were not to inform the candidates that they were being considered; this document was evaluated by Network Leadership without the candidate's knowledge. The document places heavy emphasis on loyalty to Network leaders and processes, and it prescribes that a candidate must "respond well" when told "no" or asked to change his lifestyle. Steve Morgan is listed as the author in the metadata of the document.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] See (Blue Sky Church. "Network Church Planting Fund Brochure", BSC, [circa 2011-2012]) for more information on the Network Church Planting Fund.

 

 


 

QUESTIONS OF CHARACTER AND INTEGRITY

Potential pastors, small group leaders, service team leaders, and worship team members were expected to answer these questions with a pastor or small group leader before being released into an area of service in most Network churches. The questions require the recipient to disclose their sexual history, divulge personal secrets, and reveal their tithing habits. Aaron Kuhnert is listed as the author in the metadata of the original document[1].

Notes:

[1] Former Network leaders report iterations of this document were used throughout Network churches from as early as 2005 until present day. These "Questions of Character and Integrity" appear to have evolved into Appendix A of Small Group Leader Training Week 1 2015. We have therefore included this appendix alongside the original document.

 

 


 

VINE CHURCH EMPLOYEE MANUAL 2007

This manual was required to be signed by pastoral and other full-time staff of Vine Church. The manual prohibits church employees from holding part-time employment outside the church, includes preferential vacation policies for pastors vs other employees, and forbids all employees from being alone with individuals of the opposite gender.

MISCELLANEOUS DOCUMENTS

 


ACT LIKE MEN FOUNDATION CHURCH RETREAT 2016

These documents from Foundation Church (then named ClearView Church) were forwarded after the 2016 Men's Retreat, led by lead pastor Justin Major. The email and attached documents reveal how the "complementarian" theological shift, which began in 2008, had given way to patriarchal and misogynistic attitudes within The Network. Men were instructed to behave in stereotypically masculine ways and to ask their wives infantilizing questions while keeping these documents secret.


 

2021 CEDAR HEIGHTS CHURCH BUILDING CAMPAIGN

This document outlines the $1.65 million project to purchase and renovate Cedar Heights Church's new building. Using manipulative language it requests members (who are already mandated by their membership agreements to give 10% of their income to Cedar Heights) donate $380,000 to the project for a down payment.


 

2011 NETWORK CHURCH PLANTING FUND BROCHURE

This brochure outlines The Network's mission to replicate their organizational model in as many cities as possible. The Network Church Planting Fund as defined in this document was to be used to pay the salaries of pastors who were being trained to lead a group of followers to begin new churches once the sending church reached an attendance of 500.

TEACHINGS AND SERMONS

 


 

SÁNDOR PAULL - Followers Should Obey Their Leaders in All Matters 2018

This teaching from Sándor Paull (vice president of the Network Leadership Team) represents the culmination of two decades of increasingly invasive and authoritarian leadership practices within The Network. Sándor argues that every follower in every Network church is required to share a common mind and be one in unity on all matters, great or small, with their leader. He states that any subject on which a leader and follower disagree is of major importance because the issue is important to the leader, regardless of whether the issue is technically important or not, or whether the leader is correct or not. The implication of this teaching is that, because each leader is led by a leader who is eventually led by Steve Morgan, every person who attends a Network Church should conform absolutely to fit Steve's preferences.

See Jeff Miller's article on Biblical Leadership for a thorough refutation of these teachings and unorthoprax.net for further analysis.


 

TONY RANVESTEL - Removal of Women from Leadership, River Vineyard Church Team Vision Meeting August 2008

In 2008 Tony Ranvestel delivered this teaching at an internal team meeting at River Vineyard in Layfayette, IN on why he was removing women from leadership in his church. This marked a dramatic shift in theology for the church, which was still part of The Vineyard Association at the time of this announcement. Steve Morgan's document Our Story and How We Do Church (posted elsewhere on this page) reveals Steve had leaned on Tony to consider these actions. Tony would pull his church out of Vineyard in 2009 to join Steve Morgan's Network of churches and change the name of the church from River Vineyard Church to Clear River Church.

The points Tony makes in this teaching would become precedent and would be cited as the official position for why women were disqualified for leadership in every church within The Network.


 

BRIAN SCHNEIDER - Paper Calling for the Discontinuation of Help to the Poor 2012

This paper by Brian Schneider (now lead pastor of Stoneway Church in Reading, England) is cited by Network leaders as containing the definitive reasoning for why their churches do not help the poor and was influential in dismantling such programs. In it Schnieder takes a suspicious and insular view toward the larger world while arguing that churches should not help those who are outside their own walls. He disregards the thoughts of leading theologians (including Wayne Grudem) and bases his argument on the stance the controversial pastor Mark Driscoll and the now defunct Mars Hill Church took in restricting aid to the poor of Seattle.

Jeff Irwin has written an article on his blog Not Overcome on the origin of this paper, the way it was used within The Network, and an analysis of the logic within it. Below you will find Brian Schneider's paper along with an example of the kind of ministry which was discontinued because of its influence.

Read more about this paper on notovercome.org →

BRIAN SCHNEIDER - HELP TO THE POOR

PROJECT COMPASSION - HELPING THE HOMELESS IN CARBONDALE

Project Compassion at Vine Church was discontinued sometime after Brian Schneider's paper was published in 2012.


 

DAN DIGMAN - God Speaks to Us Through Our Leaders, Cedar Heights Church June 2021

In this sermon Dan Digman teaches Cedar Heights Church in State College, PA about how leaders are to be chosen and obeyed in The Network.  Similar in substance to the Small Group Leader Training materials posted elsewhere on this page, this teaching has at its core the theological position that leaders within The Network are divinely appointed directly by Jesus and that they therefore "hear" divine guidance which church members must obey.

This position on leadership and authority, held throughout The Network, gives further context to the stories of authoritarian control in which followers are asked to obey the divine (mystical) guidance of their leaders, to their own detriment.


 

David Chery - Fiery Furnace (The Faithful Obey the Laws of God, not the Laws of Man) 2021

The following "Fiery Furnace" teaching was preached by David Chery, lead pastor of Summit Creek Church, in Eugene Oregon on January 17, 2021.  In it David encourages those attending Summit Creek to disobey laws which are against the commandments of God, such as government safety precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19 which prohibited public singing in certain situations during the height of the pandemic. This talk was given eleven days after the January 6th, 2022 storming of the United States' Capitol building.

FURTHER READING:

HISTORY OF THE NETWORK: Key milestones in the development of Steve Morgan's Network of churches