September 13, 2010
One Church, Many Congregations
How a group of pastors is reaching a region as Christ Together.
In late April 2010, more than 50 pastors crowded into a hotel conference room in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The event organizers, a small group of pastors from Chicagoland, were expecting 25 colleagues to turn out for the meeting. But when news got out about their visit, area pastors got excited. Scott Chapman, pastor of a multi-site church called The Chapel in Chicago's northern suburbs and president of the Christ Together network, shared with the Virginia pastors how Christ Together is helping churches across denominational and ethnic lines unite in service and evangelism to carry the gospel into their neighborhoods. He described a "sustained Christ awakening" that includes churches working together as the One Body of Christ to restore the reputation of Jesus in their area.
After the meeting, Scott Gifford, national director of Christ Together, attended two worship services that convinced him that this vision was taking root in Virginia.
The first was a Saturday night worship event in a predominately African-American Cornerstone Assembly of God in Hampton, Virginia. During the service, Pastor Gerard Duff preached from the Christ Together brochure.
The next morning, at Church of the Ascension in Virginia Beach, Virginia, during Father Jim Park's homily, the 71-year-old priest pulled out the same brochure and described the movement to his congregation.
"I was stirred by that," says Gifford. Now these two churches are leading other area churches in an effort to spread the vision for collaborative ministry in their city.
Becoming Christ Together
This activity in Virginia signals the expansion of a network of pastors called Christ Together, which began meeting informally in the Chicago suburbs almost a decade ago. Scott Chapman has been part of this group from the beginning, when he began to feel his church was called to make a greater impact among its neighboring communities.
Around 2002, Chapman explains, "The Chapel began to understand that we were supposed to live like Jesus: to go into our community, feed the hungry, comfort the hurting, and lead the lost back to him. In other words, we were not called to be a church in our community so much as to be a church for our community." The trouble was, the church quickly became overwhelmed by the need they encountered. With 6,000 people meeting in several locations, The Chapel is a large church with substantial resources. But it wasn't enough. Chapman soon realized that "no one church, no matter how large and influential, can reach their community alone." To truly reach the entire city with the Good News, it would take more than one church. It would take the Church.
As Chapman became increasingly aware of The Chapel's limitations, he began sharing his concerns with other area pastors. To his surprise, he found many of his colleagues were coming to similar conclusions. Together they wondered, What if instead of viewing ourselves as individual churches, we started thinking of ourselves as part of a mosaic that makes up the one Church of Christ in Chicago? To begin answering that question, a group of about a dozen pastors from Lake County, Illinois, began meeting together for prayer in order to seek God's vision for their area, moving slowly toward collaborative ministry. The network grew organically.
Christ Together pastors partnered with a county school district to rehab an older school building, replacing the roof and floors and installing new plumbing and HVAC systems. Other area pastors began to take note of the synergy some of their colleagues were experiencing. Soon there were nearly 80 local pastors committed to working together. By 2004 the movement had grown too large to be maintained by volunteers and full-time pastors alone.
Continue reading the full article at LeadershipJournal.net.