Coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re going to see more attempts at churches coming together to merge into one. While many churches might begin the process of merging as a way to keep the lights on, we're finding that the biggest motivation for any merger is actually for mission—finding a way to serve the neighborhood, to better accomplish more than before, and to extend the kingdom of God.
There are many churches in the CRC working quietly behind the scenes in some sort of merger. I've been reading through Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work by Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird. The book can provide a good template for any churches going through the process of merging.
Here are four things we can learn about mission through the process of churches merging:
1. A church merger is driven by mission. Your church should be, too.
Many churches decide to merge as a way of self-preservation or survival, but part of that is a dream of a renewed or greater mission to serve the community and reach more people. When some churches merge, they appoint one pastor to focus on discipleship within the congregation and another pastor to focus on outreach and evangelism.
2. Churches should listen to their neighborhood.
The conversations around church mergers are often internal, but we’re finding that it’s also important for churches to listen to their neighbors. Otherwise they might miss the bigger plan of God for their church.
What does your community think of your church?
Your community may know nothing about your church, or people around the church may have a view of the church attached to a leader or situation. Whether good, bad or ugly, you need to know.
3. Pursue reconciliation within your church.
Joining churches requires a lot of change, and some people could be resistant toward change or even hurt by it. Leaders need to remain relationally connected and be willing to patiently help a person join in and move toward the renewed vision and mission. Are all of your church members working toward your church’s vision and mission? If they aren’t, what’s holding them back?
4. Build bridges with diverse churches in your community.
Building bridges with diverse churches in the community is also important! Our churches can learn so much from one another, and the portrait of God’s kingdom in Scripture includes all nations, and it’s important we pursue that, especially in areas where racial reconciliation is needed.
Has your church joined another church? Are you talking about it? What have you learned about mission through the process?
Written by Peter Kelder, Resonate Global Mission's Regional Mission Leader for the Central United States Region