When we started the merger process between Grace Baptist Church and Heritage Baptist Church back in 2009, our elders and I did a lot of digging and found few resources to guide us. There just wasn’t much out there on church mergers, and what was out there was overwhelmingly negative.
Despite this, we decided that the Spirit of God was bringing us together, so we pressed on. I can’t even count the number of times I told the congregations, “We don’t know what we’re doing. We’re making this up as we go.” Some might consider that an admittance of weakness. To us, it was just being honest. We were making it up as we went. We were seeking what wisdom we could and being quite deliberate in taking our steps, but we were in undiscovered country.
Two years down the road, we know the things we did well and the things we did not do well. Overall, I thought the elders did an extraordinary job and the congregation was incredibly forgiving as we stumbled toward God’s vision.
Early last year, we were approached to assist in a merger between two congregations in Manchester. Actually, we were approached by a congregation looking for someone to merge with. We offered what we had gleaned from our experience, and over the next few months, we were able to assist them when we could.
A couple weeks ago, both of those congregations voted to what we called a “merger in principle” and they are calling their “blended worship.” I have received emails from their leaders – expressions of celebration as God brings them together. It is a joy to my heart to know that what God has done at Bedford Road can help others in the Kingdom.
Their emails got me thinking. All along, I have been contemplating and working on writing a resource on the subject of blending congregations. I have stopped and started several times. At one point, I have fifty pages written when I stalled out and stopped working. I could not figure out exactly why, but now as I am thinking over things perhaps I have stumbled on it.
I was trying to write as an authority, with the voice of someone who knows answers. In reality, we never knew what we were doing. We were somewhat surprised every time something we did worked. We were humbled to see God at work, because we knew that it could not be our own efforts.
At the same time, we were constantly bucking human authority and challenging trends. We were upstarts, doing something you weren’t supposed to be able to do in a way that had not been tried before. We were inventing structures and rethinking traditions in ways none of us had actually seen done in practice. Everyone around us, people we respected, told us we couldn’t do it. But we did.
That got me thinking that perhaps the problem was the way I was writing the book. Rather than trying to be the new textbook for this stuff, I should be writing it the way we lived it – stumbling and bumbling to keep up with what God was doing. We still haven’t caught up.