Church, Community, and Cooperative Ministry

I appreciate Ron Johnson over at Small Church Connections, and often find that his encouragement and resources for small churches in Canada speak to churches and other Christian organizations of any size and anywhere. Today I’m pleased to share an edited version of an article that first appeared on his site, and I’ve added a related video on churches working together in Hamilton, Ontario. Thank you, Ron, for your permission to re-publish your article and for your spirit of cooperation.

the value of working together

by Ron Johnson

recognizing limits

In my study of small churches I have realized that one of the primary problems faced by those churches is a lack of resources. This takes on a variety of different forms – limited finances, limited facilities, limited workers, limited leadership, etc. The key word in the previous sentence is “limited.” Small churches are shaped largely by the limitations imposed on them by not having the resources that they think they need.

The small church would love to run an impactful children’s program, but they have limited people. They would love to have a couple of gifted worship teams, but they only have a couple of people with musical ability.  They would love to hold a major outreach program, but they already have trouble meeting the budget. They would love to see more people attending, but their auditorium only holds one hundred people when it is packed.

being creative with What You Have

Churches need to take a hard look at reality, identify their limitations, then commit themselves to work with the resources that they have. Having done that, they need to become creative in how they serve.

A church only has the resources that God has given to it at that particular point in its history. Wishing for more doesn’t help the church accomplish anything.

One creative way that churches should consider stretching their resources is by considering what has happened in Hamilton, Ontario. The True City movement has allowed each of the churches involved to do more than they could ever have done alone and that is the strength of True City.

True City is a network of eighteen churches that encompasses large churches and small ones, multiple denominations, downtown churches and suburban ones. Whatever their theology and ecclesiology, they come together around one common purpose – a commitment to work for the good of the city. They are committed to the belief that churches have a unique role to play in their community and that they can do it better together.

I wish that I could bottle their commitment to that cause and spread it all over Canada. Churches working together and especially small churches working together, can do much more than churches working on their own.

Working Together

It only makes sense. If small-town church A is struggling with limited resources that holds it back from accomplishing all that it would like to accomplish, and small-town church B is having the same struggle, and small-town church C is struggling as well, it only makes sense to bring those limited resources together for a common purpose.

I’m not suggesting that small churches merge together. I believe that God has a purpose for different kinds of churches that will appeal to different types of people. What I am calling for is a realization that whatever type of church you are, you are only part of the church of Jesus Christ in your location. Jesus isn’t just the head of your part of his church in your setting. He is the head of all of his churches there. I can’t help but think that he must have some plans for all of the different parts of his church in any given place to work together, sharing the limited resources that he put into each of the parts.

accomplishing more

I have been excited about True City since it started. I have watched it begin with a couple of churches and grow to its present size. I have seen it have a significant impact on Hamilton, an impact that would never be possible if each church remained isolated and alone.

At last month’s True City conference, more than 400 people worshiped together praising God for what he had allowed them to do together. The evening began with a story of a small church that had come along side a larger church and participated in a food hamper ministry at Christmas. The small church could never have done it alone, and the large church would have been more limited in its outreach without the contribution of the small church. Together they were able to impact a lot of families that needed God’s blessing at that time of year.

As you look to the year ahead, ask yourself what there is in your community that you could do with another church’s help that you can’t do alone. Then, consider asking other church(es) to join you so that together you can have a greater impact than you could ever have alone.

True City is a unique ministry in a specific location, so it can’t be duplicated exactly anywhere else, but the underlying principles behind it can be replicated anywhere. Churches can accomplish a lot more together than they can alone.

Surely the Lord is in this place–and I did not know it!
(Genesis 28:16)

_____________________

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Resident Author with a liturgical worship community. Editor of Purpose: everyday inspiration. Author of Four Gifts, Sacred Pauses, and other books on Christian living. Blogging on Writing and Other Acts of Faith (aprilyamasaki.com) and When You Work for the Church: the good, the bad, and the ugly, and how we can all do better (whenyouworkforthechurch.com).

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