Yesterday, both Heritage Baptist Church and Grace Baptist Church announced plans to merge the congregations into one. To say this is an awesome movement of God would be an understatement, and we are all eagerly anticipating what God is going to do through the new congregation. (Of course, this is far from a done deal and we have a challenging road before us.)
Because we will be journeying together toward this merger, we will be posting some thoughts about the merger. Any time two congregations take a faith risk like this, there are a lot of concerns and we want to try to make sure we address these concerns.
We will begin by addressing the BIG questions that we addressed during the meeting at Heritage Baptist Church yesterday:
Is this a takeover?
No. Heritage is not taking over Grace, and Grace is not taking over Heritage. We are privileged to be participants in the birth of a new congregation out of two. This is something new in our experience, and we will be working through all the details.
Is this about money?
It is hard to say that anything in our modern world does not involve money, but this decision is not motivated by money. Heritage’s leadership has actually requested that Grace place their cash reserve in escrow during the transition period (1st and 2nd quarters of 2010) to alleviate fears that the ‘other church’ will spend their money.
Yes, there is a financial aspect to this consolidation. The combined congregation will save the $30,000 per year that Heritage invests in our rented space because Grace Baptist owns their property outright. This substantial savings, combined with Grace’s savings and the expected growth of the congregation will free nearly $50,000 per year to invest in ministry and building funds.
Who will lead the new congregation?
This is an excellent question that needs to be asked. The three elders of Grace Baptist Church will join with Greg Jones and myself to form a joint elder board of five. I will serve as the senior pastor and the vocational pastor. This means I will be responsible for preaching and vision casting, working with these four men of God to lead the new congregation through the transition and into the future.
As the senior pastor, I will be ‘first among equals.’ This means that I will have somewhat limited executive power because of the recognized calling of God on my life; but my position will not be (and should not want to be) the seat of power. All the elders share equal authority with different gifts. Leadership decisions will be made by all of us as elders and not by any one of us individually.
Will we give up our identity?
Both churches will need to yield a certain amount in most areas. This is part of merging. It is necessary. As much as we treasure our own way of doing things, what is not Scripture is up for discussion. Just as a blended family must take the best of both and sometimes compromise to choose an option that works best for both groups, so too the blended church must learn through one another’s values and practices.
Will they accept our ‘quirks’?
Every body has quirks. They are part of who we are. The most important thing to acceptance is learning to explain and not be offended when we do something that is not part of the other’s makeup. In time, we learn to value what others value and we grow together.
How much further will I have to drive?
Since the combined congregation will meet at Grace’s facility, there will be an additional drive for some of us. On average, drives will extend about 6 miles. At an average speed of 45MPH, that’s an additional 8-10 minutes of driving. For those living to the east, the increase will be greater. To conserve gasoline and promote fellowship, consider car pooling from time to time.