One of my favorite monthly activities is a monthly pastors lunch. Not only is it free, but I get to spend time with other guys in the area who I otherwise wouldn't run into. We're not in the same denominational association, we're not really in the same communities, and in some cases we're not the same ethnicity. So it's a wonderful time of fellowship as we connect with one another and share about our ministries and families (and college football).
Over the last few years, I've noticed some trends in how we as leaders and our churches cooperate with one another. I think these are healthy for the most part. They foster greater connectivity, ministry, and help remind us that the Kingdom of God is bigger than our backyard.
1. A Willingness to Cross Denominational Lines - I love my denomination. I've been incredibly fortunate to have been part of one that is so supportive of its ministry leaders while in school (if you're part of an SBC church, your tuition in seminary is subsidized by 50%), and has a footprint around the world through missions and church planting. But the Kingdom is bigger than the SBC. And when I spend time with other leaders and churches outside the SBC, I'm refined and reminded about how big the Kingdom is. We do well to cooperate and partner outside our own circles not only for our own soul's sake but also for the sake of our neighbors who are impacted by churches working together.
2. A Desire to Have Older Leaders Involved - This is one of the best things about Millennials, their desire to have older mentors. And when we engage with older leaders who are established, experienced, and wise, we're all better for it. These older leaders have walked longer in our shoes than we've been alive in some cases. And to dismiss their influence is to our downfall.
3. Mission > Method - I wish it was as easy as buying a box set from a bookstore about how to transform our church into North Point, Saddleback, Village, Summit, etc. But it doesn't work like that. In fact it's more than not looking to a box set. In many cases we can't directly copy what others are doing around us, or expect them to fall in line with how we do it. Why? Because our contexts are vastly different, even if we're in the same area code. That's where Mission trumps Method. How we do things is less important than What we do. And what's encouraging is that this is something I see being embraced.
4. Theological Affinity > Tribal Loyalty - We're coming together less along tribal lines and more along lines of affinity for the Gospel. So we're seeing cross-denominational partnerships like NAMB and Acts 29 where church planting is multiplied because affinity for the Gospel is bigger than who gets credit for the plant. We attend conferences where we rub shoulders with people who share a common theological affinity even if we don't come from the same circles. We're willing to put aside our tribal loyalty and listen to, learn from, and engage with friends from different worlds because we've recognized our affinity for the Gospel.
5. Increased Access and Communication - More cooperation can happen because the channels of communication, networking, and access are better than before. We can engage on social media, through podcasts/blogs, through videoconferences, and because of the unceasing presence of our cell phones we have access to each other that once before was only during office hours or in person. Ideas can spark movements and leaders have the ability to cooperate together in ways that were unheard of a generation ago.
6. Humility With Success - I love it when leaders get together for a common mission and make it clear from the beginning "This isn't an XYZ Church thing, it's a Kingdom effort." Why? Because it doesn't matter who gets credit. It's back to the Mission > Method. Not only is the method secondary to the mission but even the success is second to the mission. A friend of mine pastors a larger church in our area and they've made it clear about their push to serve their neighborhoods that it's not about whether or not their church grows, they want to see others succeed.
7. Walls & Stagnant Water - The strange irony of how we're seeing leaders and churches cooperate is that it's just as much true as it is that we're seeing more engagement outside our tribal identity. It's kinda weird. But welcome to life with unending paradox! As much as it's true that we're engaging older leaders, we're crossing denominational lines, and we're putting Mission ahead of Method, I'm also seeing more than a few trends of people isolating themselves among their theological affinity, building divisions based on their theological identity, shutting off outside voices who can speak wisdom and clarity, and more. This is the trend that concerns me, because we quickly become stagnant water when nothing fresh comes in from the outside.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.