Wherever churches have existed for more than a few decades, there is a potential for healthy and fruitful church mergers. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus is building his church, a prevailing church at that. His desire for his bride is that she be healthy, unified, collaborative, and effective. All local churches—the strong, the stable, the stuck, and the struggling ones—are churches that Jesus loves.
Table 1.1 Biblical Value of Churches Being
“Better Together” Through a Merger
Churches merge so that they can be more . . .
“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them . . .” (John 17:23, emphasis added).
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope . . .” (Eph. 4:4, emphasis added).
“Being like-minded . . . being one in spirit and purpose” (Phil. 2:2, emphasis added).
Paul views each city’s church as one body, such as “Paul . . . to the church of God in Corinth” (I Cor. 1:2) and “To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 1:1).
“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity” (Ps. 133:1, emphasis added).
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18, emphasis added).
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work” (Eccles. 4:9, emphasis added).
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7, emphasis added).
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).
“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you” (Jer. 29:7).
“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it . . . to prepare God’s people for works of service, to that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God and become mature . . .” (Eph. 4:7–13).
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (I Cor. 13:11, emphasis added).
“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23–24, emphasis added).
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider each other better than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3, emphasis added).
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12, emphasis added).
“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings” (Isa. 58:12).
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9, emphasis added).
Wherever your own church falls on that spectrum, we believe it’s worth prayerfully exploring whether your church may be a potential candidate for a church merger as a means of building his church overall and extending his kingdom in new ways in this generation.
• To be better together than each church is individually
• To begin a new church life cycle
• To reach more people for Christ
• To make a greater difference for Christ
• To multiply your church’s impact
• To better serve your local community
• To leverage the legacy and good reputation of the past
• To maximize church facilities
• To be a stronger local church
• To further extend God’s kingdom
For those good things to happen, all parties in the merger have to take a risk—a step of faith with no guarantee of success. The statistics on church mergers are sobering. Mergers can be hard. Many fail. This book does not announce that all mergers now work; rather, it affirms that an increasing number of churches have found a way to make mergers work and with many experiencing amazingly good results.
Are you up to exercising faith? We Americans like contests and shows like The Biggest Loser because we like to root against the odds. We love it when the underdog makes it. We’re drawn to success stories of people going against the odds and winning.
Many of us likewise believe that we can be the exception, entering marriage with every good hope of a meaningful, lifelong relationship, even though we know the reality is that too many marriages don’t make it. We take long shots on other dreams—maybe of owning our own business or rising to the top of our field, even though we know that in the final outcome only a few will actually make it.
Challenges are still present for today’s mergers, but as Jesus told us, with God all things are possible (see Matt. 19:26). We believe some churches are using mergers to fulfill Christ’s great commission (see Matt. 18:19–20) in ways that God is eager to bless. Is that something for you to explore? Is it the “new thing” (Isa. 43:19) that God might want to do for you?
Mergers are not a strategy for maintaining the status quo. They are a strategy for dramatic change. Is a merger possibly in your church’s future?
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