Why Churches Together?

When our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate their Passover meal, they begin by priming the youngest child to ask a question to the oldest adult present. This question is, ‘Why is this night different from all other nights?’ It is, arguably, one of the most important
elements of the evening. It marks the beginning of the storytelling as the family recount God’s faithfulness in delivering His people from slavery and leading them to the promised land. It prevents the true meaning of Passover from being lost, and it reinforces the tradition.
The danger for us as Churches Together is that we assume that our congregations and even ourselves as leaders understand our purpose. And so, as we stand on the edge of something new (and it is clear
already that God is doing a work among us – you can feel the
fellowship, playfulness, and delight around the table), it is worth us stepping back and asking the question, ‘Why are we doing what we are doing?’ This is helpful because there are many good reasons that churches should work together. Some are scripturally based. Others surface from our practical experience of how God can do great things when Christians lay aside their differences and work together. But some are better than others.
The main reason for our questioning, ‘Why are we doing what we are doing?’ is to strengthen ourselves as we draw strength from the
consensus that we hold. The second is to help us think realistically and strategically about how we grow Churches Together, locally, as a movement. The word ‘movement’ is key. I put it to us all that our Churches Together groups are not so much a committee or an
organization seeking to ensure that churches play together nicely (and if possible avoid clashing with each other’s events). We are a movement; a group of people who believe that churches through Christ change lives, and that this outworking of the gospel cannot be contained within our walls. As Jesus reminds us, you cannot fit new wine into old wineskins. Or, to use another gospel reference, we are going to need a bigger boat. Crucially, the more that we are able to support each other and work together, the more growth we will see 

in our churches.   
We should not give up on joint worship. However, we should concede that apart from where congregations from say two or three different local denominations have unite permanently, the quest for joint
worship has always been difficult. This is because people are a
product of their culture. For example, a morning joint service means that every church in our context apart from one must move its
congregation. An afternoon service suggests that meeting for worship is an optional extra. Across the board, however, acts of worship that are in open spaces, and on high seasons and holidays, are supported by congregants. Perhaps this is because everyone sees the value in public witness, and this is something that we can do better together than alone.
Perhaps the points below might be helpful as a simple reminder to those who attend our churches about some of the core truths that lead us to work together, wherever possible:
* We may worship differently but our core beliefs are the same, and we share the same calling; to make disciples and to show God’s love to the World.
* God calls us to be one as Christians first (never mind our denominational affiliation), supporting each other as disciples. Through
Churches Together we encourage people to be there for each other when the worst happens. Equally, we celebrate with our brothers and sisters when we experience the best that life has to offer.
* As Church Leaders there is an obligation on us to model this
ourselves; it is in and of itself, an act of witness to the presence and power of God across our churches.
* There are more than enough people in many villages, towns, and cities, to fill our churches; it is the Lord who builds our local churches by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, whilst it might be tempting to preserve our own numbers and to limit our efforts to support our own congregations, it is in fact counterproductive. Our task is to simply help people find a church that is right for them. We care more about them than what church they eventually 

· Churches Together provides a way of helping churches coordinate their efforts so that in their individual efforts they do not undermine what each other is doing.

· Churches Together can take simple steps to permission give and remove the invisible barriers to mission that can so easily impede us; through sharing information about what churches are doing and what help is available to those who are in need; by celebrating and highlighting examples of where a member of one church finds fulfilment in supporting a mission project in another; of discerning what
additional needs exist in the town and encouraging joint projects between churches, or a single project under the umbrella of Churches
Together.

And yes, our united acts of worship, particularly those that are in public (in the form of gatherings for worship, and times of reflection and prayer) will provide a visible witness to a world and can therefore be the first steps in evangelism from which people can invite to find a welcome in a local church. However, the danger is that they will end-up being constrained to within the (literal) walls of the church, where newcomers will rarely venture, and they will cater for those who are committed to church unity rather than pressing the argument home amongst those who may well be asking the question, ‘What is the point of Churches Together?’

Langley