Thinking Out Loud

February 28, 2013

Local Churches are Better Together

So what happens when five local church pastors show up for four Sunday mornings at the wrong churches?

That’s what’s happening right now where I live. Actually, it kicked off last weekend. The concept has been in the planning stages since early fall, and this extended game of pastor musical chairs is called Better Together.  To be sure, these Evangelical pastors are making history.

Each week for four weeks they are preaching a sermon series that finds them in a different location. Then on week five they speak at their home church. The series culminates in a joint Good Friday service five days later, something these churches have been doing for about 25 years.  The Good Friday event is actually two services, held in the grand ballroom of a local hotel.

Participating congregations and ministers include our local Fellowship Baptist, Pentecostal Assemblies, Christian & Missionary Alliance, Convention Baptist and Salvation Army churches.  It’s a great show of unity. It’s a great demonstration to the local community that we’re not in competition with each other; that we share a single message even though we meet and worship independently.

But there’s more.

Part of the Better Together initiative is to raise both money and a labor pool for the construction of what is currently the last remaining Habitat for Humanity property in the town. The offering will be taken at the Good Friday service and the pastors have pledged $60,000; an ambitious goal in a small town. It’s the type of thing that no church in this area could take on themselves, but another reminder that we are Better Together.

Would this work where you live? I think you have to have the right spiritual atmosphere for something like this to work and I believe the annual Good Friday service has paved the way for something like this to happen. Added to this is the dynamic of the particular lead pastors currently serving in the town being in one mind on this project. 

But whether it works now for you, or in the future, I hope this idea becomes contagious.

September 11, 2009

Starting a Town Laiterial

Like most North American jurisdictions, we have a ministerial association where the various rectors, priests, ministers, pastors (and rabbis if we had any), etc. meet monthly to “talk shop.”   These groups often include chaplains from local seniors’ homes, hospitals or jails, as well as full-time youth workers with parachurch organizations.

The local shoe stores may be in competition, but by virtue of this monthly meeting, the churches can honestly say they are working together on various community initiatives.    The various clergy may not agree on every matter of faith and doctrine, but these religious professionals have, at the very least, a context in which to dialog with other men and women who have chosen the same vocation.

But they are, at the end of the day, restricted to the professionals, and there are a great deal of initiatives that never get brought forward for discussion, and a whole host of other ideas that never get presented because, despite the stereotypical idea that these people only work on Sunday, they are actually quite pressed for time.

Which is why I think our ministerial should be complemented by a laiterial.   That’s right, a laiterial.    Didn’t expect my spell-checker to be too happy with that one.   Why not something where one member of the laity in each congregation meets with representatives from other assemblies and places of worship for the purpose of seeing if more can be accomplished by working together?

This means not just a loose collection of people meeting in an “inter-faith” context, but actual selected delegates, representing each faith group with a purpose and agenda.  People who know what it means to get something accomplished. People who recognize that their various pastors and ministers have an entirely different set of priorities when they meet each month, and want to produce something in conjunction with them that may take great amounts of time and effort.

People from different places of worship can work together in ways that clergy simply cannot.    It’s the potential of cooperation on a much more grassroots level.   It’s about interacting with people who attend the church across town.   It’s about being in conversation with people whose believes are often extremely divergent.   For the Christian, it’s a context yielding to a different definition of what it means to be salt and light.

The type of thing these meetings can produce is going to be  of a very general nature in terms of inherent spirituality.   But it can show that religion — any religion — is more than just doctrine.   It’s doctrine plus ethics.   Orthodoxy plus orthopraxy.   Talk plus action.

Laiterial.   It’s not in the dictionary.  Not yet.

Coming monthly to a restaurant meeting room or church basement near you.

The word “laiterial” is the exclusive intellectual property of Paul Wilkinson and Thinking Out Loud unless of course, you actually make public use of the term, in which case I’d be too flattered to object.

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