Serving as a pastor in the Bible Belt comes with quirky challenges.
As a pastor, one of my greatest burdens is watching how churches compete with one another.
- You would think we would realize we are on the same team.
- You would think we would grasp that there are enough unchurched folks out there to fill every congregation.
- You would think we would acknowledge that heaven won’t be divided by ecclesiastical and denominational subdivisions.
You would think. You would hope. And you would be wrong.
It baffles me regarding some of the tactics I hear about just in our city. It breaks my heart when I hear what one pastor says about another pastor. It never ceases to amaze me how church leaders can try to capitalize when another church is going through hard times. It is shocking to me that I hear of preachers bash other churches or preachers by name or by reference from the pulpit.
I hear about some pastors in the area that slander others all the time. What is truly sad is how that information is always comes back around. Maybe they don’t think that the lies or the slander would be spread but they are wrong. Why would a called truth-telling pastor resort to gossip (Eph. 4:29; Prov. 16:28; James 1:26)?
It’s heartbreaking to see how one minister’s reputation is ruined in his attempt to tear down another’s.
I can easily get on the defensive. I can easily get on the offensive. While my flesh wants to play that game sometimes, I refuse to go there.
I refuse to waste my time telling gossip when I could be telling the gospel.
Are there any other church leaders out there with me? Any church members that want to stop the bickering and let’s see what we can do together for the Kingdom of God? Anyone out there want to do good to the members of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10).
3 Practical Steps for Unity Among Churches
I am sure there are more out there, but here are 3 practical steps to start unifying people within differing congregations.
- Pray. When was the last time you prayed for another congregation in your city? What about their pastor? I try to make it a habit to pray for different churches when I hear about hardships going on. Driving by another church is a wonderful opportunity to pray a quick prayer (1 Thess. 5:17). Pray that their eyes would be opened to their calling (Eph. 1:18). Pray that they would truly unify (John 17:21). Pray that they would spend their lives for the sake of the gospel and not get caught up in any trivial pursuit (Acts 20:24). Here’s a crazy idea: pray for other churches in your own worship service! We do this from time to time and it is so rewarding on so many levels. We will provide a list of pastors to pray for as they preach. We show a list of congregations to pray for. It teaches your church how to pray and models that churches should be unified.
- Encourage. Have you heard about a church that is struggling? Contact someone you know in that congregation and encourage them (Heb. 3:13). Did you hear about a recent success? Contact the pastor and celebrate with him (1 Thess. 5:11). Highlight the wins of other congregations. Ask questions and show genuine interest when another church is doing well. Slow down and really care for those when things aren’t going well. It’s probably what you would hope they would do for you (Matt. 7:12).
- Share. Are you aware of a struggle in another congregation? Have you been asked for advice? Then share everything you have! What could be the worst thing that happen? An idea that you share could strengthen that church, they reach a lot of people for Jesus, and God is glorified! That sounds like a worthwhile effort to me! This week alone, I have had the privilege through Skype, email, phone, and meetings to share what we are doing at our church. Some are people in different cities but some are right down the road. I am humbled and honored to be asked about what we are doing and I love learning from others. On Tuesday, I am speaking at a gathering of local pastors to talk about family ministry. I was honored to ask, but I wondered how much do I share? Should I share the entire playbook? Absolutely! Why not? I am going to share every single thing I’ve got (well, as long as the time I have) and hopefully every church represented (including ours) will be stronger as a result. We are one (1 Cor. 12:12; Eph. 4:4) family (1 Cor. 12:27)! Can you imagine if all of our churches really improved in implementing biblical principles concerning family (Deut. 6:4-9) into our congregations? The landscape of our city would change! I’m gonna share stuff and they are going to think, “This won’t work, but we could do that…I’ve got an even better idea…What if we did that instead…” That’s what it’s all about!
I want to be humble enough to learn from others and loving enough to share with others.
I hope you do too! I long for churches to play well together. If we are all going to have to deal with one another in heaven, don’t you think it is time we start praying that his “will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10)?
Pray. Encourage. Share.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.