I am a networker. One of my best friends calls me his “Social Butterfly” friend. I enjoy people and I enjoy relationships. In our move to Peoria in November of 2012, I sought to use this strength (or maybe weakness), as a means to connect with pastors and churches in our area, who stand with our church theologically and philosophically.
We are not a denominational church, so we don’t have the infrastructure or the fellowship of a denomination and as such I believe it’s important for us to build these kinds of relationships. “Why,” you may ask, “is this important?” I will illustrate with a story. Back in my Youth Ministry days in Florida, my friend Chuck Berry (this one, not this one) was the Youth Pastor of the big PCA church in our area. I met him early on in my ministry in that area and we became fast friends. I remember one day realizing how much “stuff” Chuck had given me over the couple of years we had been friends. I mentioned this to him and asked him to not do this. He look at me and said (I am paraphrasing), “Jason, we are the mega-church in this area and I can afford to give you these things.” Now I’m not saying that I befriend bigger churches in order to get things, but what Chuck was telling me was we have the resources to help you out from time to time, let us!
I think there is an unwritten stigma in the independent church movement that if you accept help or use the resources of other churches, you are somehow less than independent and that in time you will be subsumed under the umbrella of the big churches with which you do not have an official affiliation. Why is this? Not pretending to know the answer to this in each situation, I would venture a guess that the basis of this may be pride. A sort of can-do-rugged-individualism that has taken on a corporate identity. I understand the need for independent churches to be independent, but I also don’t see a problem with interdependence. If, as I mentioned earlier, a church’s leadership can in good conscious based on theology and philosophy align themselves with the efforts of the gospel in their context, why not partner with these churches?
A logical way to look at this is Mission Support. We essentially do this with Mission Agencies. True, they are para-church, but what are the criterion for alignment? Doctrine and Philosophy and maybe to some degree methodology. Why not then unofficially pull the resources of churches in a given area to see that the gospel is more widely proclaimed?
There is also second side to this. As a pastor, it is good for me to have relationships with other likeminded pastors in my area. I need this. Don’t get me wrong, I have godly elders in whom I can confide everything. But it is good for me to mingle and be refreshed by those who are living, working and breathing the same things as me, day in and day out. These relationships have become vital for me as I think through different situations within our own fellowship as well as matters like preaching, theology, philosophy, methodology and the like.
Thirdly, it is important for our local assembly to know that we are not the only “gig” in town. There are reasons people attend our fellowship and not others, but I pray that through these interactions that I am having and the prayers that I pray publicly for these pastors that our flock know that these men are “on the same team.” I hope that it inspires them to pray for these men and their people more.
I’m sure there is more that can be said about this, and maybe I’ll write more in the future. But for now, I needed to get this out, because it’s been on my mind the last couple of days. I would love to hear from any of you pastor or congregant alike what your thoughts are on this matter.