Friday, June 21, 2024
Friday, June 21, 2024
HomeAll The NewsHEALTH CHURCH: Advancing the Gospel

HEALTH CHURCH: Advancing the Gospel

         Why should churches partner together? It has been said many different ways and times, but we will say it again — we are better together. We are also stronger together. In Stronger Together, Dave Harvey states, “My experience of network — with all of its virtues and vices — has confirmed this biblical principle: churches can achieve together what no one could accomplish alone.” You could argue both sides of that statement, but the Scriptures do point to a lot of cooperation and collaboration. In Phil. 1:4-5, Paul said he was always praying with joy for them because of their partnership in the gospel from the first day with them.

      Our BMA Principles of Cooperation states, “The purpose of the Baptist Missionary Association of America, a distinct fellowship of Baptist churches, is to (1) provide cooperating departments and agencies, (2) inspire a mission vision, and (3) assist each local church in carrying out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).” It is the responsibility of every Christian, every church, every association, every network and every denomination that truly belongs to Christ to advance the gospel. When the Great Commission was given to the 12 disciples, it was a commission that began with the churches, and it is to be finished by His churches.

      Grace Baptist Church in Joplin, Mo. is a church focused on advancing the gospel. Their Pastor, Brad Wieneke, states on their website, “Our goal is to build gospel-advancing families at Grace — families that will take the mission of Jesus Christ and make it their mission.” This beautifully describes the value of mission together and can protect you from the vice of individualism, which is man’s default setting, both individually and corporately. When values and virtues are discarded or forgotten, individualism and isolation step in to fill their void. Solomon made it clear that two are better than one and a threefold cord is not easily broken.

      You can give all kinds of reasons and arguments of why you believe you need to go alone in advancing the gospel as an individual or even as a church, but you need to ask, “Do you believe churches are stronger when their members work together advancing the gospel? Do you also believe churches are stronger when they are working together to advance the gospel? Is that a conviction, and how passionate are you about it?” Passion is a conviction that becomes contagious because it withstands the test of pain, and working together will create some painful moments. A conviction is not something you hold; it is something that holds you.

      If your members or your church gives in to the vice of individualism, it will become inwardly focused, and being inwardly focused is very unhealthy. You focus, instead, on programs and ministry, making sure everyone already there is comfortable and cared for. It is Adam and Eve who introduced a godless individualism into our DNA, where our natural default is to hide from God, blame everyone else for our issues and become overtly self-centered. Satan loves to separate sheep (individuals) from the fold and churches from associations who think they are better by themselves and do not need anyone else. Paul spoke of being partners in grace in Phil. 1:7 (HCSB): “It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel.”

      When the value of being better and stronger together is ignored or forgotten, it can easily lead a church or a mission organization into institutionalism, which is defined as “whenever a ministry or organization begins to exist more for those who are already there than those who are not.” Jesus said He came to seek and to save the lost. He also said He did not come looking for the healthy but for the sick. It dawned on me recently that if we are going to be a light in the darkness, we need to get to where the darkness is instead of sitting in our well-lit sanctuaries, buildings and homes.

      How many churches have become “organized organisms?” The title describes the problem of when the organic nature of the living, breathing body of believers that has unfortunately organized themselves right out of ministry. Over-mechanization begins to destroy dynamic life when the well-oiled machine of “ministry” demands all our time and energy. Dave Harvey reminds us that every church and every organization needs institutional characteristics and movement dynamics, returning to the conviction that the gospel’s transforming power is greater, stronger and more effective than any system we devise.

      The partnerships found in Philippians and throughout the New Testament do not show us radical independence but instead interdependence. Our association believes that the autonomy of a local church is a conviction we hold tightly, but let me challenge you again with an observation from Dave Harvey: “But we must not confuse the priority of the local church with theexclusivity of the local church.” Who can you cooperate and collaborate with in the advancement of the gospel? People, churches and organizations wither and perish in isolation, thinking like Elijah, that they are the only ones doing it right.

      Your first step is prayer about how the Lord would have you personally advance the gospel. How will you engage with people who are far from God and shine your light into their darkness? Lead by example, and remember that the speed of the leader determines the speed of the team. Then, pray about how your church should go about its calling to the family enterprise of bringing more people into the family. How will you join arms together to advance the gospel in your context? Allow the Great Commission to be your compass that guides every individual, every family and every church initiative. Is your church advancing the gospel?

Acts 1, and on in the New Testament, chronicles how the disciples understood and applied the Great Commission in partnership with other believers and between other local churches. May our conviction be that we are stronger together in advancing the gospel in every crack and crevice of society. May our conviction be to push the gospel outside the walls of our church buildings and see it spread “through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the utmost parts of the world” because we are better and stronger together. May our practice and passion be to carry out what we say is our conviction.