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Why churches should work together…but don’t

Why churches should work together…but don’t

Vector Perspective city map with red markers and rounded icons Part 4 of 4

We’ve spent the past three weeks recommending organizational changes to reorient your church toward the Biblical definition of its “customer”.  What we haven’t discussed yet are organizational changes necessary to align the larger body of Christ in a city around that new “customer” definition.  It turns out those same organizational strategies and structures that revitalize a church (small “c”) will also revitalize the Church (capital “C”) in a community.

Why churches SHOULD work together…

The Path to Revitalization we recommended for a single church in our last blog post also applies to the larger “body” in a city:

  1. Take “Ground” – Other churches live on your footprint.  They occupy adjacent “ground” in your community.  If an established, growing church bought the property next door, how would you feel?  Is that an opportunity or a threat?  It all depends on whether your church sees the member or the community as its “customer”.  Would cooperating or acting separately take more ground for the Kingdom?  Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts (of the “body”)?
  2. Develop Genuine Relationships – Relationships aren’t genuine if they’re not cooperative, pointed toward shared objectives. How many pastors are good friends with several other local pastors from other denominations in their city?  What if rather than isolating from one another, more churches explored ways to collaborate to increase their impact exponentially?
  3. Fuel a Positive Perception – Because churches don’t often combine forces, not much noteworthy is getting done by the “body” in communities. So how can churches combat the popular view that they’re more about taking care of their own than others?  One church forming neighborhood groups, local ministry teams, or semi-autonomous subgroups isn’t as powerful as multiple churches banding together to bring the love of Jesus Christ to bear on pressing issues in the city.  No one church can do it all.

Why churches RARELY work together…

The Church should act and look like a unified body to the world around it, but it doesn’t.  When someone asks what religion you are, they’re not looking for “I’m a Christian” – they are asking about your denominational affiliation.  They see churches as distinct buildings and pastors trying to build their individual institutions.  When society lumps churches together and speaks of the capital “C”, it’s not usually to say something positive.  They generally view churches as more competitive than cooperative.

For 25 weeks, this blog has laid out how the mis-definition of the Church’s “customer” is the root cause behind nearly every tendency and decision that has led to the Church’s decline in America.  If the community were the “customer” and members were truly the “Church” then churches would have no fear of working together to love, serve and reach the lost.  However, most churches today treat members as “customers”, making them reluctant to partner with other churches even though it would mean multiplying the Church’s impact in the community.  The resulting trends we’ve observed are:

  1. Controlling versus unleashing – Rather than releasing members year-round to serve (like through Meet The Need), more and more churches are controlling their local missions and outreach activities, increasingly putting staff members in charge (versus empowering lay leaders) and branding their own events (versus partnering with local ministries)
  2. Protecting “turf” versus expanding “turf” – Taking more “ground” through city-wide collaboration isn’t widely viewed as worth the risk of potentially losing members (as they interact with members of other churches)
  3. Catering versus challenging – Fear of losing members makes pastors and staff hesitate to push members to:
  • be all they can be in Christ through discipleship
  • love all they can through engaging in local causes
  • interact with as many as they can in the community, even with other ministries or churches

These trends are symptomatic and tell-tale signs of treating members as “customers” rather than viewing them as the “Church” to be equipped and deployed to reach the true “customer”.  They explain why most churches today operate independently from one another, at least across denominations.  Although each initially looks at where other churches are located to see if there’s a place for them, once planted few consider how their strengths map into the larger “body” in the city. Consequently, the Church overall in America is losing ground. Its footprint is shrinking, at a seemingly accelerating pace.  With 93% of churches now not growing, when is it finally worth taking the risk of collaborating to become a more formidable body of Christ in your community?

How churches COULD work together…

God only has one plan for your city.  His will is not split.  No doubt he uses different churches to reach different people to accomplish His plan, but it’s one plan.  Churches should therefore be working toward that same outcome, to see everyone in that city come to Him.  Jesus’ method for bringing people to Himself was to heal and feed, to demonstrate His love and power, before telling them who He is.  He gave the disciples the power and mandate to do the same, and the early Church followed His example.  Churches could have a tremendous impact for Christ if they would collectively:

  1. Consider how each church is equipped for prayer, care and share in the local community.  The Bible speaks of parts of the body each playing a key role, all toward the same mission.  Is the “body” the scriptures refer to a small “c” (an individual church) or capital “C” (the Church united)?
  2. Map how the Church overall is laid out in a city and whether it has adequate resources in the right places to serve local needs and reach everyone with the gospel.
  3. Evaluate how the strengths and skills of each church could be combined with those of other local churches to collaboratively accomplish the Lord’s will for the city.
  4. Speak with city leaders to identify key causes to address, with the goal of eradicating or making significant dents in the name of Jesus Christ. Depth often creates greater impact than breadth, particularly if issues are large and resources are limited.

It’s your turn…

Where have you seen churches uniting year-round to demonstrate God’s love within a community, choosing shared Kingdom goals over any impediments to collaboration?


20 Responses

  1. As long as denominatiions and christians are polarized within their “exclusive” groups and judge one another for their differences, there will never again be a growing, thriving church. The body of Christ is judgmental, jealous, and controlling. At least thats been my experience. We don’t love as Christ loves, hating the sin, but loving the sinner and one another.

  2. It seems church pastors/leaders aren’t even interested in getting together to pray…and church buildings are right alongside or across the street from each other, and other pastors use other church buildings of a different doctrinal persuasion or denomination for their services, but neither the host or guest pastor get together to pray for each other and their respective congregations.

    1. Nelson,
      That is most unfortunate. My wife and I are domestic missionaries. Our sending church (Reformed Baptist) has for the past 10 years had a Russian Pentecostal church use our building after our Sunday Services. While doctrinal differences exists more common ground can be found than not and we have enjoyed many co services, family dinners and yes prayer nights.

      I can not imagine a church allowing a group to use their church that they felt so much in opposition to they could not find time to pray with them. I can however imagine many groups who I (if I had any say) would not allow use of the church I was a member at. These groups/denomination/churches are simply not biblical.

  3. Hi Jim…can you give me a call or email. In Boston, we have figured out how to do this pretty effectively. I run an organization called United Night of Worship. We have gathered tens of thousands in the dry city of Boston. We have a whole system and process we have followed to the T (designed by an Accenture consultant-my wife).

      1. Good Evening,I just read your blog.I would be interested in speaking with someone about the approach that was taken for the United Night of Worship Movemrnt. I live in Roanoke Virginia and we are interested in establishing a Unity Fellowship among the city churches.

  4. You’re doing some excellent blogging, Jim! I think churches want to work together and as we know some are spearheading that effort, but collaboration is often difficult, not due to as much these days to denominational differences but logistics. What I have seen work are models that operate within the context of the local church but get local churches involved in a common initiative. In DFW, we recently had 500 churches do the Explore God, a 6 week beginner Bible study, that was hugely successful. During this time you could drive anywhere in DFW and see “Explore God” banners in front of local churches. We’re now working on a follow-up that will saturate the city with the Gospel. Then there has been Movement Day that has united the local church around key issues in the city. It’s slow going and cumbersome but this is the 3rd year coming up we’ll pull leaders around the city together for a united day of learning together. 1600 leaders the first time in 2014, and 2000 leaders in 2016, from a variety of churches. Blessings!

    1. Thanks for the comments, Brian. Yes, there are some concerted efforts like yours to rally churches to prayer and common causes in cities across the country. Unfortunately, it’s proven much easier to get pastors together for a big event like Movement Day or to have them each adopt a similar program to implement at their respective churches like Explore God than to get churches to collaborate and engage side-by-side year-round, reaching out as a united body of Christ to their communities. Much of that challenge could be logistics but my concern expressed in the blog is that the issues extend deeper. Merry Christmas!

  5. The very point we are making at The International Missions Conference. For example, the slogan that ‘Sunday is the most racially-discriminating’ day in America continues to be true. Because it is also popular, you can be certain that Satan loves it.

  6. I was doing some research on collaborative efforts of various faith groups in prison ministry when I came across this article on “why churches should work together…” In out prison ministry we work together because people of all faith groups have sons, daughters, parents and other loved ones in jail and prison. The criminal justice system is truly blind to religious affiliation. If you break the law the first question is not, “what church do you belong to?”

    Our ministry serves the incarcerated and their families through our outreach we help people build their faith and come to Christ. We also serve the community by engaging with the incarcerated to hopefully redirect those who have committed crimes and reduce the likelihood of future victims.

    This ministry is wide open to collaborative efforts for people of faith as it is in all of our best interest to mentor, serve, teach, and demonstrate the love of Christ to those who are in prison and to their families.

  7. Was there a reason Jesus spent so much time in homes with people eating and fellowshipping? Was there a reason God didn’t let His people build a temple before Solomon? Has there become too much focus on Church and reaching some numbers game rather than a body of believers coming together as well in homes and having loving family gatherings? Someone once said, “As the family goes, so goes the Church.”

  8. Hi Jim thankyou very much for the blog. God has called me into that ministry where i should engage the local churches to come together and seek and meet the needs of the community together so as to bring healing to our community. am at the initial stages of drafting the call. but your help will be of great reward to me.thanks .

  9. Hi George, I have also been called for the same in my county. I really dont know where to begin. Any advice would be appreciated. I have never done anything like this before, in my county denominations are a huge deal so I dont know how it will be recieved by the churches. I just know that it is what God wants! Please any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance and God Bless you, and your ministry.

  10. I am a female Christian. I have a desire to bring the body of Christ together in unity by getting in touch with those with the same desire to when the lost for Christ.

  11. My name is Richard i have walked this journey of serving my Lord for over 35 years e.g. taking care of abandoned churches left by some african pastors who go abroad and never come back. I have been a member of the unity fellowship of churches but what is called unity is not unity for example of recent i was arrested by one the government officials and imprisoned for 2 months but not even one pastor came to visit me or vist my family this made me to ask many questions as to why. but only GOD helped me out now am trying to begine again having lost everything.

  12. I would love to work with anyone willing! I coordinate a Monthly Global Nations of Worship Night LIVESTREAM Broadcast every 1st of the month and i could use all the help and guidance you guys have to offer! I just started June and we are working on August but I am not with a particular church and i am still building a team. I work with Individuals and am in need of Pastors who are willing to share a 5 minute message or word. The evening consists of Prayer, Scripture, Spoken Word and Original songs. This last one made a huge impact because we keep it raw and honest, sharing testimonies and touching on topics like attempted suicide, depression, and anxiety.
    We just had July and we had people from Trinidad & Tobago, Australia, Canada, Jamaica, Barbados, Philippines, and ALL over the US. I had a Pastor from Vegas and a Pastor from California share. But my network is limited and even though i may know many….very few say yes. If anything, can you guys keep it all in prayer? IF anyone is interested you can contact me and put MEET THE NEED in the Subject line. <3 GLOBAL PRAISE for our Father on a Virtual stage! I can share more info.

  13. It really helped me when you said that in order to see everyone in that city come to Him, churches should be working toward the same result. You’re doing a great job blogging! I believe that churches desire to collaborate, and as we all know, some are leading the charge. However, collaboration is sometimes challenging owing to logistical challenges more than doctrinal disagreements these days. Thanks for the information regarding nondenominational church services; I’ll pass it along to our ministry.

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The 5 Steps to Revitalize Your Church

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Root cause for the Church's decline & its path to Revitalization

“Any organization not focused on its customers, or focused on the wrong customers, cannot succeed.” – Jim Morgan