A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference in Hamilton sponsored by a church movement called True City. As it has in the past, True City challenged me that churches are more effective working together than they are serving alone.
True City began about seventeen years ago with just a handful of churches. They were committed to working together for the good of their city. Today there are eighteen churches that form a network, all with one goal in mind. 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 knew God was doing something special in Hamilton when people from a Brethren Church attended a service in a Christian Reformed Church. This was to bless a ministry that the Christian Reformed Church was initiating. Remembering back to my isolationist roots, I was convinced that only God could bring these churches together in this way.
If you would like to know more about True City go to www.truecity.ca/welcome.
Co-operative ministry and the small church
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.
Working 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. True City has allowed each of the churches involved to do more than they could ever have done alone and that is the strength of the True City movement.
True City 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.
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.
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.
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.
On the Friday evening of the 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 yourselves what there is in your community that you could do with another church’s help that you can’t do alone. Then, consider asking the 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 that probably can’t be duplicated exactly as it is in Hamilton but the underlying principles behind it can be replicated anywhere. Churches can accomplish a lot more together than they can alone.