MERGING CHURCHES WELL a.k.a. MANAGING CHANGE WELL
Many people long to experience the movement of God in their personal lives, amid their church, and extended to their community. While church mergers are ripe with risks, challenges, and difficulty, they are also pregnant with incredible personal faith development, congregational revitalization, and the transformation of countless lives through Jesus. To experience the fullness and richness of the occasion, jump in the deep end of the pool. Lean in wholly towards growth in your faith, renewal of your reconfigured spiritual family, and the God-sized mission of seeing every living soul in your community experience new life in Christ Jesus!
EMBRACE WHAT IS IN FRONT OF YOU
“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
Thrown into the deep end. Training wheels removed. Driving with a newly printed learners permit. Each time we have experienced these and similar circumstances we grew. We learned to swim, we pedaled like crazy, and we took our car from point A to point B. Without the chance to walk through discomfort and pain we rarely see growth. A church merger is an excellent opportunity for personal growth in faith and even greater personal impact on others because of that progress. This point of change is a great time to step up your involvement and engagement. Participate in a different ministry than you are used to or, better yet, start a new one! This season of transition is a chance to swim, ride, and drive towards deeper roots and stronger faith. In the two verses above, Paul tells a group of Christ followers, who are facing challenges and pain in the faith, to take full advantage of the difficulty at hand by following Jesus with an abandon. Faithful surrender leads to a stronger relationship with Him. Grow strong in the truth through embracing what is before you.
STAY PUT, STAY PATIENT
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.”
I Corinthians 12:12
The temptation for some may be to “jump ship” during major change. Besides, there are plenty of good churches out there, right? But, what could God have in store for an intentionally gathered group of believers who purposefully choose to be one body? Amazing things will happen. A church is whole as each part of the body works at making a genuine connection with those that are new to them. So, grab the hand of the person in your new church family. Step up your hospitality game. In so doing, the renewed local body will become incredibly attractive to those who are not yet in relationship with you.
Furthermore, stay put and stay patient. Change is often difficult. Some change is necessary and for the best. Now is not the time to “see how this merger thing goes” before you decide to embrace others in this newly formed church family. Be the body… on purpose!
“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in [to the party], that my house may be filled’”
The most important question before you: Are we making the best decision for the sake of God’s church and the furtherance of His kingdom? There are thousands of people in your community who do not know that they have an invitation from the God of the universe to His kingdom party! Attending this party is a transformed life that is free from the chains of darkness and death! The merger of two churches into one is an invaluable opportunity to chase hard after the mission “that my house may be filled.” Lest we mistake the vision for simply filling worship service seats, let’s remember it’s about transformation in Christ Jesus. That is the “house” to be filled. Embrace the renewing, resetting, and revitalization of this big, bold, and biblical vision. Do something together that you cannot do as well separately. You will be better together than separate at embracing the heartbeat of God. Keep your eye focused on this mission. Work as a team in creative and innovative ways to “compel people” to a new life through Jesus.
A church leader in a struggling congregation shared with me that the turning point for their church family was when they chose comfort and status quo over vision several years ago. Twenty years previous, this group of Christ-followers was experiencing new found momentum. They had a dynamic young pastor, financial reserves, and an opportunity to proactively reach families outside the four walls of their church in their growing community. After several weeks of heated debate, they chose against the vision that would take them out of their comfort zone and set them squarely in the role of a missionary to their city. In a disappointed voice, the elder said, “David, after that decisive moment families began leaving our church one by one, the pastor soon left for a church that is thriving today, and our money has been eaten up by building maintenance. I wish we would have stepped out in faith back then.”
You may be at a similar turning point. This is a point in the history of your church family where you have a choice. It is the decision to grow deeper in faith, to intentionally be one body, and to compel those in your community to follow Jesus and experience the transformed life.
Fully embrace this catalytic moment.