Most churches in America have fewer than 75 members. My guess is that most churches in Canada are even smaller. Small churches are necessarily limited in much of what they can do and what they can offer in local and international missions. Is there a solution? Is there a way that small churches can have a big impact? Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks think there is and their new book Churches Partnering Together offers their solution.
Bruno and Dirks pastor in Hawaii and there they face unique challenges, and challenges that sound quite similar to the ones we face here in Canada. People leave Hawaii to pursue theological education in the continental U.S., but then never come back, and the same thing happens here. The churches in Hawaii (or the solid ones, at least) tend to be fairly small, just like in Canada. And so these pastors and others like them have had to come up with creative solutions, and, even better Bible-based solutions.
In Churches Partnering Together, the two pastors share their vision for churches partnering together for the sake of the gospel. And it’s not just small churches either. As the authors say,
In this book we will explore how churches, big and small, can partner together for the sake of the kingdom. We want to help smaller-church leaders see possibilities for kingdom impact they might not have envisioned before, and we want to help bigger-church leaders see the blessing of working alongside smaller churches. We will encourage smaller churches to stop passively coveting megachurches and larger churches to stop trying to go it alone. Instead, we will urge large and small churches to start dreaming big dreams for the kingdom together. We’ll also give lots of practical guidance from our own experience and the experience of others that will help bring these dreams to reality.
Their dream is to see what they call kingdom partnerships. “A kingdom partnership is a gospel-driven relationship between interdependent local churches that pray, work, and share resources together strategically to glorify God through kingdom-advancing goals they could not accomplish alone.”
The authors structure the book around three themes: the biblical and theological basis for kingdom partnerships (which they draw largely from Paul’s Jerusalem collection), the actual process of beginning a partnership, and the goal of expanding and multiplying such partnerships. And I have to say, they present a vision that is both exciting and compelling. They present the vision and offer a lot of practical help in actually bringing it about.
What I see here in Canada is that denominations tend to be less important than in days past. It may be that denominations are yesterday’s means of collaboration. Today, churches band together on the basis of shared passions and shared theological emphases. Over the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to see the struggles and drawbacks of churches that try to go it alone. I have also seen the blessings that can come to and through churches that forge gospel partnerships. I have been blessed to see churches in my area begin to form strategic partnerships, and to begin to work together. And I pray for more of it.
Churches Partnering Together is a helpful guide to the importance and the practicalities of forging meaningful relationships between whole congregations. It is my hope that many churches—especially smaller churches—will read it and implement it, to the glory of God.