Lessons from the Road towards Together
originally written for the November 2010 Beacon
In the fall of 2004 when we first coined the TrueCity tagline–“Churches Together for the Good of the City” we had no idea how deeply this would resonate with people around Hamilton. For many, to see churches who share a love for Jesus set aside differences to engage his mission together just seems right. We have found this to be true both for believers and those outside of the Church looking in. Six years later there are ten churches in Hamilton who continue to walk in covenant with each other pursuing this vision.
Learning to work together has not been straight forward. It continues to have its ups and downs. Truth be told, our church structures were not set up to foster collaboration and they often inadvertently impede the mission God is calling our congregations to engage. Yet here in Hamilton and in a growing number of other places churches are actively seeking to navigate the road of working together.
While the yearly conference remains the most visible outworking of these relationships here in Hamilton, it is the week to week pursuit of mission in our neighbourhoods which produces the real fruit of churches working together. Fruit such as–
–thousands of backpacks filled with supplies and delivered to schools across the city;
–tutoring initiatives and after-school programs started at many of those schools;
–a home for refugee claimants opened
–churches across the city learning to build relationships with new immigrants to our city.
–the multiplying of neighbourhood sports leagues, summer day-camps, addiction support groups, bike co-ops, and new church plants by learning from each other.
As I reflect on the story of TrueCity and what I know of movements in other cities, there are three lessons that stand out for me. First and most obvious, when churches work together exciting things get done. The cross-pollination of sharing stories and experience brings new ventures into full bloom by leveraging existing resources through networks of grassroots relationships. We can easily miss that these things were birthed because of collaboration so telling these stories in ways that surfaces the many different contributors is crucial.
Second, when churches work together our preconceived ideas of where God’s favour rests get challenged and we learn to walk more humbly. We learn that our church or denomination does not have a corner on the Kingdom and that we have much to learn even from those we may view with suspicion. Our understanding of who God is and what He is doing expands. This enriches our worship and teaches us to expectantly pay closer attention to what is happening beyond the confines of our own congregation.
Third, while there are numerous fronts where collaboration is possible, the most powerful are those where we work for the benefit of others. Doing so forces us to turn away from self-interest and entrust our all too real needs into God’s hands. When we do this for no reason other than to more accurately reflect God’s heart for our city people’s curiosity is piqued and they begin to ask questions to which the gospel is the answer.
When our churches work together our faith is enriched, our witness is magnified and we learn to let to go of our agenda when it conflicts with God’s kingdom agenda. It all makes sense, but it doesn’t make it easy. There is much still to learn as we navigate this road. The key is for us to intentionally pursue and prioritize such collaboration, weaving it into the very fabric of how we do church together.