This past Sunday evening I was invited to preach at an associational Lenten service. For the past three years this Baptist association has come together during the Lenten season to hold joint worship services on Sunday evenings. Each week they meet in a different church with a different pastor speaking. Often, still another church in the association will bring special music. They had asked me to preach this service prior to my announcing my retirement as their Region's Resource Minister.
Many of the churches in this association are smaller, bivocational churches. In addition to having joint Lenten services, this association also holds various training opportunities that their churches can attend. In the past they have held a large county-wide revival. It is really exciting to see how this association works together to accomplish much more than any of these churches could do by themselves.
It was just a few years ago this association wasn't sure that it would survive much longer. They had not had an associational meeting for a few years because no one was willing to lead such an event. Although the churches had a good relationship with one another, each was focused on their own ministries, and there was little interest in coming together for anything. Frankly, their association was like many in the area I served. The senior saints remembered better days in the past when the association was strong, but few saw much of a future.
Suddenly, people began to see that there were some things they could do together than they could not do by themselves. The decision was made to try to hold another associational meeting, and the attendance far exceeded anything in recent years. The idea of working together caught fire, and the association began to plan various events they would host together.
The church was nearly full Sunday evening when I spoke. The congregational singing and the special music was wonderful, each song reminding us of the season we were celebrating. One smaller church in the association announced they had baptized eight people that morning, and the entire congregation broke out in applause. By the time I got up to preach the congregation was ready. It was one of the easiest sermons I've preached in a long time!
Smaller churches often point to their limited resources as a reason they cannot do as much as other churches, but when these churches come together they are able to do far more than they realize. I have worked with other associations who went into less affluent neighborhoods to winterize homes. I've seen associations and groups of churches come together to do repairs at church camps. I've seen groups of smaller churches plan training events that all the churches in the area can attend. When we work together all our limitations as smaller churches go away.
Is there something you've wished your church could do but just didn't feel you had the resources? Are there other churches who might be willing to participate in that with you? I bet if you ask around you'll find some that would love to partner with other churches to minister in the community. Begin asking God what might be the possibilities if you come together with other churches to better serve your community.