First, we take some inspiration from the brilliant organizational skills of John Wesley. He organized “classes” that were open to anyone, including folk who today would be called “seekers.” He also organized “bands” that were made up of Christians who signed on to the doctrines Wesley preached, and who, within that framework, were interested in growth, discipleship, and training. Both the classes and the bands were crucial, in God’s good pleasure, to the growth of the Evangelical Awakening. In both Wesley’s case and in ours, the important thing to observe is that provision is made to mesh and interact with all kinds of people and opinions (in Wesley’s “classes” and among our “participants”), while provision is also made for those who share our understanding of Scripture and who want to grow in that glorious heritage (in Wesley’s “bands” and among our “members”).
Second, The Gospel Coalition is what mathematicians would call “a center-bounded set.” In other words, we are not a “boundary set.” If we were a “boundary set” we would nail down the outer limits of who is “in” and who is “out,” who is “with us” and who is “against us” or at least apart from us. The tendency of boundary sets is to enlarge the tent to make it as big as possible, while diluting the content to the thinnest gruel so that as few as possible are excluded. The downside is that pretty soon there are scores of things no one is allowed to talk about because those within the boundaries have agreed that the only requirement for being “in” is this lowest-common-denominator set of beliefs or principles. By contrast, as a center-bounded set the Coalition has adopted Foundation Documents that are theologically robust and a vision of things we hold to be both faithful to the Bible and pastorally important in our day. At that point, our leaders will be tough-minded and frankly and joyfully confessional, even while we acknowledge that many people will interact with us at various levels of agreement and disagreement, using some of our material, not using other parts of it, not having to decide exactly who is “in” and “out.” At some level or other, just about everyone is welcome to be connected with TGCN at the participant level, and to use material as they wish from TGC website. However, membership requires "signing on" to our Foundational Documents in order to preserve the theological integrity of our membership community.
Third, from our members will also come, after interviews, some leaders who will form “chapters”—that is, not only “groups” within the digital work of the Network, but “chapters” that are regional centers for carrying on the work of The Gospel Coalition at local and regional levels. Already, for instance, TGC Bay Area (San Francisco) exists, and several other regional chapters are on the cusp of forming. Obviously we hope and pray that such local leadership will be far more effective at the local level than our central Council can possibly be. Equally clearly, we insist that these local chapters share the vision and priorities enshrined in our Foundation Documents. We hope in due course to serve these local chapters with special web pages and the like.
For the record: The Gospel Coalition reserves the right to shut down any Group on TGCN that operates in violation of the courtesy we expect on our site, and of the principles we have laid out here.
Soli Deo gloria!