“The Christian mission is epic, global, massive—and impossible, unless God’s people and his churches work as partners.”
Of all the people in the world, Christians should be the ones who most naturally work together. By the same token, of all the institutions in the world, you would expect churches to partner warmly and joyfully with one another. With humble excitement, local congregations, denominations, Christian ministries and Christian movements should seek to work in harmony for the sake of Jesus, our common Lord. The Christian mission is the most important calling in the history of the world. It is epic, global, massive and impossible unless God’s people and his churches work as partners.
But we simply don’t play well together. Christians, churches and pastors can be territorial, protective, selfish and shortsighted. With that in mind, here are five “dares” I would like to challenge pastors, churches and all followers of Jesus with. If you are willing to take these dares seriously, God will bless you and launch you into a new level of fruitfulness in ministry.
1. See other churches as partners, not as competitors.
When a new church announced that they would be starting in a local theater, the leaders of the largest church in town did something shocking. They did not see this new church as competition. They did not worry if this new church might cut into their “market share.” Instead, they did three things.
First, they began praying for the new church. They asked God to bless and grow this brand-new ministry. Second, they reached out and sought to establish a friendship with the new pastor. They gave a warm greeting. Third, they asked one simple question: “What do you need to succeed?” The new church responded, “We don’t have a sound system to bring in and out of the theater where we will be gathering for worship.” The larger, established church responded quickly by gifting a sound system that would serve the new church.
Holy Dare: Love other local churches, pray for them and see them as family, not enemies.
2. Serve your community together as a united body, not as fragmented solo acts.
In 2016 the church started a one-day community service effort called Love Our Central Coast. They engaged in about 25 distinct ministries of service that extended love, help and grace to their community. The next year they did it again, but this time they partnered with five other local churches. This allowed them to ramp up almost twice as many projects and 50 percent more volunteers serving the community together. The acts of service sent a clear gospel message, but the thing that many of the people in the community commented on was that it was nice to see churches working together.
Holy Dare: Identify one or two ministries you do in your church and invite another church to come alongside and serve with you.
3. Give away your best ideas.
About 30 years ago I began helping local churches move from being inwardly focused to outwardly focused. One of my commitments and passions is to give away everything I possibly can. My wife and I founded Organic Outreach International and set up a website (OrganicOutreach.com) that features all of our best ideas and resources. Everything on the website is free. All you have to give is your email address so we can share new stuff with you.
We are so committed to giving things away that we have released everything in English and Spanish, and we are praying about adding more languages as we press forward. People are always amazed when we tell them about the free resources on our website that provide everything they need in order to do a three-year journey of church transformation toward outreach. Most people are used to finding a shopping cart and a price tag on almost everything they find on ministry websites.
Holy Dare: If you have a great idea for personal or church outreach, give it away. If you don’t know who to share it with, contact the Organic Outreach offices and share it with us. We’ll help you get the word out.
[Note: A publishing house owns the three books on Organic Outreach (for Ordinary People, for Families, and for Churches), so they are not free. But we do all we can to make them available at a discount to any church that wants to see a powerful work of evangelism.]
4. Pray for and aggressively bless other churches and ministries in your community.
There is power in prayer. What message would it send to your church and to other congregations in your community if you called another church monthly and asked for one or two of their key prayer needs? How would they respond if you said, “We plan to pray for your church in our weekend service”? I can assure you, the other churches would be blessed and encouraged. Also, your congregation would have a new vision of partnership and collaborative ministry if they spent time praying for other local Christian congregations during worship services.
Holy Dare: Make a commitment to pray for every local church when you walk or drive past their building. If you have influence on what happens in your church services, make a commitment to pray for other local churches during your worship service.
5. Connect and build relationships with leaders from other churches.
Every time I hear about a new church starting or a new pastor coming to serve a congregation in our community, I reach out and ask if I can take them to lunch or breakfast (my treat). Take a guess what percentage of pastors agree to go out for a free lunch.
I wish I could say 100 percent. I would be thrilled if 75 percent said yes. The truth is, I am batting about 50 percent in this department. About half of the pastors I reach out to are willing to meet, share a meal, get to know each other and pray together. This still amazes me. I would think that the free lunch alone would inspire more pastors to say yes.
Though only about 50 percent of the pastors I invite to lunch say yes, I can assure you that 100 percent of the time I have these lunches it is glorious and encouraging for both of us. Recently I met with a great leader who pastors a wonderful church, Greater Victory Temple in Seaside, California. I met him for the first time at a community service event that six churches partnered on. I discovered that he had become the lead pastor after a couple of decades serving in other capacities.
When I invited him out for breakfast, he was thrilled. I was able to introduce him to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in his town. We had a blast, and when I insisted on picking up the check, he said, “OK, but I am going to follow up and take you to lunch.” I can’t wait to hang out with him again.
Holy Dare: If you are a church leader or staff member, make a point of spending time getting to know, encouraging and praying with other church leaders.
The work of the gospel is too important for us to try and accomplish it on our own. The spiritual resistance to our mission is massive. We can’t do this work alone. The good news is that we are part of God’s Church. It is time to get to know our brothers and sisters. I dare you!
Kevin Harney, an Outreach magazine contributing editor, is lead pastor of Shoreline Community Church in Monterey, California, and the founder and visionary leader of Organic Outreach Ministries International.