Cultivating a Heart for Kingdom Partnerships
When we started Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge, MA almost 10 years ago there were not many other churches in the area who were proclaiming the gospel. However, there were a few and we were not the only ones on this mission. Since then a number of church plants have had encouraging beginnings in our area and we are praying for many more like these in the days to come. So, by God’s grace, there are even more kingdom partners in our city and we are excited by and thankful for that reality. One of the principles that we wanted to remember, teach our congregation and remind ourselves over the years is that we are not “it” and we will be enriched and God will be glorified through pursuing kingdom partnerships. We’ve tried to intentionally do a few things to encourage this over the years and I’d like to mention three in particular.
- Pray for other churches.
Each Sunday in our opening prayer, we pray specifically for another like-minded church or church plant in our area. We learned this from Capitol Hill Baptist Church. We do this for several reasons. Obviously it is a good practice to pray for another like-minded church. This is also a helpful reminder to the staff and whichever pastor who leads the prayer that we not the only ones in the Boston area. It also reminds our members and all in attendance each week that we are eager to see other churches thrive in our area and it can help to undercut arrogance and jealousy within our congregation towards other churches. In addition to serving other churches by praying for them, this practice has been good for my own heart and I think has been a helpful one for our congregation.
What would it look like to cultivate prayer for other churches in your congregation? Could you pray in your Sunday gathering? In a regular prayer meeting? In your small groups?
2. Point to other churches.
It is tempting to think that your church is the best place for everyone in the city and to try to keep everyone who walks in the door. But the fact is, our church isn’t the best place for everyone. One key aspect in our area is simply the travel time necessary to get across the city. If someone lives far enough away so that they can’t really engage in the life of our church because of the commute time, we don’t do them any favors if we try to keep them. So, we often are pointing people to other like-minded churches in our area. We do this on our website where one of the slides on the home page points to churches in some other neighborhoods of our city. We also often directly recommend other churches to people who visit our service if we find out where they live and there is another like-minded church that is closer to them. Over the years, this practice has served other believers by helping them connect with a congregation that is closer to them geographically and it has helped free me from the temptation of trying to cling to every person that we encounter.
Are there ways that you could point to other churches in your area? Is there anything in your own heart that would keep you from doing that?
3. Partner with other churches.
Over the years we have made efforts to do what we could to encourage and partner with other like-minded churches and plants in our city. This has come in a variety of forms. We have supported a number of plants financially over the years. We have also tried to share our experiences, mistakes and resources with those who might be interested. Much of what we have has been adapted from others and we are glad to share what we have with others. Sometimes we can share wisdom from what has been effective and probably just as often share about mistakes that we have made so that they don’t have to be repeated. We are blessed to have a church facility so we are glad to share that with others as well as it is helpful to them for baptisms, meetings, etc. Recently, we hosted a marriage retreat where 12 different churches and plants came to together to seek to grow in their marriages. This practice has led to some encouraging friendships and partnerships. Whatever our congregation has given up has been more than made up through the joy of rich partnerships.
How could your church or church plant partner with others? Could you partner with a larger church and learn from them? Could your congregation partner with a smaller congregation or plant and be a blessing to them.
It’s tempting in areas like these to be concerned about what may be lost if we do things like encourage others to attend another church or if we give away the financial resources of our congregation. But here is where the beautiful reality that God’s kingdom is much bigger than our own local church or plant is so helpful. Friends, our church is not “it”. Let’s pray that God will empower us not to try to cling to people and resources but to see the benefit, joy and fellowship of kingdom partnerships.Curtis Cook is the Pastor of Hope Fellowship Church in Boston MA. Curtis is married to Brandy, and they have two children, Hannah and Brennan. He enjoys time with Brandy and the kids, reading, coaching little league basketball and baseball, Dunkin Donuts coffee, following the Red Sox, and occasional games of pick-up basketball and flag football.