The Church. Just mentioning the word stirs up all sorts of emotions. Some people get angry–won’t even talk to you. Others practically live there–nearly obsessed. But no matter what the reaction, everyone’s got an opinion about it. What it’s done, what it’s failed to do, and why they attend, or why they’ll never set foot in one again.
But one question I’m hearing a lot these days, not only amongst my own leadership team, but amongst Christians in particularly influential Churches, is what if the Church actually worked together? What would our coverage map look like?
First off, check out this amazing video produced by Daniel Mosley in Douglasville, GA, as this post is really a response to his work:
Profound and simple. Yet the next question is inevitably, how? Breaking through those “denominational differences” can at times seem insurmountable. But not impossible. And moreover, I think God is behind it! So what keeps us back? And how do we move forward? Well, here are a few thoughts:
1.) Release Ownership of Your Name
What I find the most astounding is that it’s the “big boys on the block” that are the ones most sincerely looking to network, partner, and drop “sacred cows” in their doctrinal systems. Did you hear me? It’s the large, booming, “popular” churches that are wanting to work this out. Sure, not always, but the large majority, by far. One would only assume that the small churches would love the handout, and the big churches would be fearful of losing what they have (as they actually do have something!). But therein lies the conundrum. The biggest worry of small churches is what keeps them from exploding: fear. And specifically, fear of being swallowed. Which, ironically enough, is the last thing we are called to strive for in the Kingdom. So we small churches are staying small for a completely un-Biblical principle.
Now I’m not saying we have to all become one uber-church (although that is the implication in Acts), but I am saying that our individual names need to be secondary to a superior name, the Kingdom of God. And that, therefore, warrants co-laboring of epic proportions. Releasing your rights to your movement’s name and sacred-cows can open unlimited possibilities.
2.) Work With the Willing
Not everyone is going to get along. It’s simply the way it is. From ice cream preference to restaurant choice to preferred vacation spot, we’re not all going to see eye to eye. Christopher, are you changing your mind with this whole “can’t we all just get along” thing? Not at all. The point here is that you might not be able to co-labor with everybody, but you might be able to co-labor with a few somebodies. Somewhere out there–even if it’s just one–there is a church who will link arms with you. Even if it’s only for a single event, conference, service project, or prayer meeting. Chances are, unless you’re the only church on an island (or just have really bad leadership around you), that you’ve already done something together with another church. Great! Do it again!
3.) Operate From Combined Strengths
One of the things that stops co-laboring is the spotlight. Who’s getting all the press. Put frankly, who’s in control. While this ties into Point 1, it’s much more so on the individual level, not the corporate one. Giving up power in light of a stronger member of the collective is often times the single most determining factor of whether or not the Body of Christ will work together. On a senior level, it’s a pastor not wanting to relinquish their control to someone better suited for the job during a potential church merger; in joint youth events, it’s someone who thinks they are a gifted youth communicator (but really isn’t) not being asked to speak, then ending up offended. The idea here is to truly come to grips with what you are fantastic at. And often times, it’s not what we “wish” we were good at. Turns out the guy that wants to lead worship is simply not the best man for the job; but it turns out he’s incredible at organizing data. The one man who thinks he should be the lead pastor is actually a much better evangelist. The church who thought they should have a food pantry, singles ministry, or youth group should actually send their people to the church that’s already doing it successfully and support them, putting their own time and energy into what they are really called to focus on. No matter what form of coming together is being done, from homeless ministry to small group training, it’s absolutely imperative that participants take an objective look at exactly what they do well, and die to what they don’t.
There are more points that could be brought out, but it seems if individuals and organizations could mutually embrace these three simple (yet notably challenging) steps, we’d be leaps and bounds closer to blowing past Verizon’s coverage map as a Church. Embracing such concepts will determine whether we recreate the blueprint of the book of Acts, or continue to dig a graveyard filled with missed opportunities. All three tips could be summarized in one even more powerful word: pride. Set aside who gets the credit, who’s opposing you, and what you think you should or should not be asked to do, and there’s no stopping us.
Huh. Sounds a lot like what Christ requires of us. ch: