Pastor’s ponderings

I was recently at a gathering wherein someone, recognizing that I served as pastor for a Cooperative Parish, asked me to explain the difference between it and a multi-point charge. They had heard of pastors, especially in our United Methodist system, serving more than one church, but never in the context of a Cooperative Parish. To put it as plainly as I could, I said that a charge is served by a shared pastor, but the churches remain autonomous, standing on their own, with little cooperation between them. In a Cooperative Parish, the churches are involved in shared ministries; they essentially are one church united in all that they do.

Some colleagues of mine recently wrote a book about Cooperative Parishes, within which one of them, Jason Stanley, noted that some churches might collaborate occasionally on a specific project, like working at a food pantry, but at the end of the day they return to their own locale and go back to their own business. Yet, he notes, “Cooperation is different. When churches cooperate, they do so for a joint effort. It is more than just labor. It is cooperation with a new vision” (An Effective Approach to Cooperative Parishes, p. 39). “There is no longer ‘my ministry’ and ‘your ministry’; it is now ‘our ministry” (p. 40).

This really got me to thinking – why don’t more churches cooperate with one another? Sure, we might occasionally collaborate on something or another, but the reality is we actually tend to compete more often than not. With multiple churches in the same area, we are in competition for attendance, ways to serve the community, conflicting activity schedules, and the limited resources that are available. Every now and again we might come together and do something to pool these things, but for the most part, we go right back to our own buildings to do things our own ways.

This coming Sunday is World Communion Sunday. It is an opportunity to reflect on how we are all a part of the Body of Christ, in Communion with Jesus and with one another. It is a chance to reflect upon how we are not Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, or any other institutional denomination, but that we are all Christians, serving Christ to grow the Kingdom. And we are in communion with one another to grow the Kingdom. We certainly can’t do that while competing, and we won’t make much progress by occasionally collaborating. So, perhaps today we all need to ponder how we might be more cooperative in our ministries, how together we can embark upon the Great Commission and make a difference in the world around us.

Always pondering,

Pastor Steve

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