Is Your Church an Island?

Tom Blaylock, Director of Church Multiplication

I had breakfast the other day with three UB pastors. One was pastoring a large church that is well established, and the other two were pastoring smaller congregations that were planted 5 – 8 years ago. All three pastors live within about a half-hour of each other.

Another thing you need to know about these churches–they all want to bless people beyond the four walls of the buildings they meet in. These leaders honestly want to move their congregations to a greater level of engagement in a lost and dying world, both around the corner and in the far corners of the world. And, to their credit, they are taking deliberate steps in that direction.

But on this particular morning, as we waded through the Cracker Barrel menu and feasted on oatmeal (this ordered by one of our senior members) and pancakes, the question was not, “What is your church doing these days to be and bring the Good News to people?” (which is a very good question), but rather, “What can our three congregations do together to ‘go and make disciples’ that we can’t do on our own?”

And that is a very different question.

We talk a lot about the “Body of Christ” at the local church level. Most of us would agree that helping the members of our congregations discover and engage their giftedness and calling is one of the most important things we do. I remember my days as a church planter and senior pastor. For me the concept of an interdependent body–with each member doing what the Holy Spirit had equipped them to do – was a matter of survival. There was no large, red “S” imprinted on my chest. After a short period of time I learned that I desperately needed others to step forward and live out their giftedness if our church was going to be healthy and fruitful.

Could these same principles be true on a regional level? Is it possible that our local churches were meant to function with other local churches in an interdependent way as we focus on the unfinished mission of making disciples?

Those of you who have spent a lot of time in the book of Acts might have some good insights on this. How many churches were there in Corinth? Were there many churches, or one church of Corinth with many members spread over the region? And if there is only one church of Detroit, or Fort Wayne, or Lancaster, then how do we function together to accomplish the mission that Christ initiated and promised to fulfill?

Can we plant more churches that make disciples of more people by taking joint ownership of our region and intentionally working together for something far greater than the “success” of our own, individual churches?
I would love to get some feedback on this!

1 Comment
  • Tim Hallman
    Posted at 20:24h, 28 July

    Our church attempted a version of this kind of cooperation with area local churches in a limited fashion through a neighborhood VBS. It was a positive experience for the five churches connected with the event. The actual event didn’t attract as many kids as we had hoped, but the churches involved enjoyed doing a task like this together.
    As an initial event, it was good, but in order for something like this to continue year after year, or to carry over to other kinds of events, the actual events will have to be more successful. All of that to say, it didn’t take much persuasion for the local churches to agree to work together. It may be that other local churches are just waiting to be asked to join in a joint-project.
    Maybe starting off with safe events like VBS can eventually lead to more daring projects in the future. Our group initially consisted of a Wesleyean church, Church of Christ, Presbyterian USA, and Mennonite (and UB, of course).

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