Biblical Basis for Mergers
Where do we find mergers in the Bible? The word isn’t there but the concept is supported throughout Scripture. The Apostle Paul taught there is “one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Eph. 4:4–5). The Psalmist declared “how good and pleasant it is when God’s people dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1). The entire drama of the New Testament is the story of God bringing diverse groups together toward that divine reality.
Jesus talks of having “other sheep” (Gentiles) that need to be brought into the flock (John 10:16). He said that the temple should be a house of prayer for all nations, not just his own ethnic group (Mark 11:17). The Book of Acts demonstrates a wide variety of people groups that are all brought into one church to the point, as Paul explains later, that in Christ “there is no longer any distinction between Gentiles and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarians, savages, slaves, and free, but Christ is all, Christ is in all” (Col. 3:11, Good News Translation). Paul explains how Gentiles have been “grafted” into the same vine as the Jews (Rom. 11:17), and how God “brought Jews and Gentiles together as though we were only one person . . . when he united us in peace . . . by uniting Jews and Gentiles in one body” (Eph. 2:15–16). The Church is even likened to the union of male and female when forming a marriage (Eph. 5:22–32).
God is a champion for merging—bringing diverse people together into a beautiful mosaic that reflects what heaven will look like on earth. Don’t verbs like grafting, reconciling, uniting, and marry all convey the idea of merging? Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor, slave or free, traditional and contemporary, old and young, denominational and nondenominational—all are invited to join, to merge with his family on earth and demonstrate the power of the gospel to transform lives and to break down the walls that divide us. We affirm that healthy churches reproduce and multiply.
That’s why we consult and write books on church planting and multisite ministry. We need more life-giving churches, not fewer. We are not saying that every church should merge with another church but we are advocating that every church ought to consider merging if it would better fulfill the biblically driven mission of your church and better extend God’s kingdom in your community. Merging is congruent with the heart of God, the principles of Scripture, and the ideal of more effectively using the resources God has provided.
As one pastor in Atlanta told us, “The word partnership has changed the life of our church. The Bible tells how Peter caught so many fish that his boat was about to sink. He called over another boat and they partnered together to capture all the blessing God was giving them. That’s what happened as we came together to make a difference in this community.” In his case, it was a cross-cultural partnership as his growing, predominantly African American congregation joined forces with a declining predominantly white congregation. The importance of bringing another boat alongside finds expression through many different values across Scripture.
Jim Tomberlin is founder and senior strategist of MultiSite Solutions, a company dedicated to assisting churches in maximizing their redemptive potential through intensive and insightful multisite and church merger consultation.
Over three decades of diverse ministry, Jim has pastored a church in Germany, grown a megachurch in Colorado and pioneered the multisite strategy for Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. Since 2005 he has been consulting and coaching churches in developing and implementing multi-campus strategies.
As the @MultiSiteGuy Jim continues to track multisite developments and has become the nationally recognized expert on multisite church. In addition, he has become the @MergerGuru on church mergers with nearly a third of his consulting currently involving merger issues.
Jim is the author of 125 Tips for MultiSite Churches, Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work, and Church Locality: New Rules for Church Buildings in a Multisite, Church Planting and Giga-Church World.
Follow him on his blog at http://multisitesolutions.com/blog.
Jim resides in Scottsdale, AZ and holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Georgia State University in Atlanta and a Masters of Theology (Th.M) from Dallas Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Deryl, have three grown children and nine grandchildren