A recent article from our sister publication, Leadership Journal, covers the rapid growth of Christ Together, a network that developed in the Chicagoland area after pastors of several different congregations saw an opportunity to partner with each other to pursue ministry opportunities.
"Scott Chapman has been part of this group from the beginning, when he began to feel his church was called to make a greater impact among its neighboring communities.
Around 2002, Chapman explains, 'The Chapel began to understand that we were supposed to live like Jesus: to go into our community, feed the hungry, comfort the hurting, and lead the lost back to him. In other words, we were not called to be a church in our community so much as to be a church for our community.' The trouble was, the church quickly became overwhelmed by the need they encountered. With 6,000 people meeting in several locations, The Chapel is a large church with substantial resources. But it wasn't enough. Chapman soon realized that 'no one church, no matter how large and influential, can reach their community alone.' To truly reach the entire city with the Good News, it would take more than one church. It would take the Church.
As Chapman became increasingly aware of The Chapel's limitations, he began sharing his concerns with other area pastors. To his surprise, he found many of his colleagues were coming to similar conclusions. Together they wondered, What if instead of viewing ourselves as individual churches, we started thinking of ourselves as part of a mosaic that makes up the one Church of Christ in Chicago? To begin answering that question, a group of about a dozen pastors from Lake County, Illinois, began meeting together for prayer in order to seek God's vision for their area, moving slowly toward collaborative ministry. The network grew organically."
Sensing a similar environment in Virginia, Christ Together has begun building a network there throughout 2010. The number of churches to join has grown by dozens in recent months.
Reading about this movement, we're reminded of a "Future Church" column written by Frank Sommerville for Your Church Today magazine earlier this year titled "Better Together." In it, Frank explains how the efforts of multiple churches together can potentially solve more community problems and bear greater witness to the love of Christ. And, based on Frank's explanation, the legal parameters for forming these types of networks doesn't have to be overly complicated.
As your church contemplates ministry opportunities, and ways to serve surrounding neighborhoods and communities, consider what may be possible in collaboration with another congregation. It may not be as hard as you think.
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