Over the years local pastors from different denominations have met weekly for prayer and monthly for business. Out of these times together has come a desire to be part of a bigger picture, to work more closely to be united in Christ’s vision for the Church.
One of our first expressions of this is called “Our Community in the Park.” This event is a beautiful example of Christ’s Body at work. We gather at a large, central park and provide various things for our local community, all for free, all with zero strings attached, and zero preaching involved. This is a time for our churches to just gather and love our city. Each year we offer free family portraits, mending services, clothing, cleanup crews, car washes, dental care, medical care, eye care, haircuts, lunch, prayer booths, small children’s carnivals, and car maintenance and inspections, among other things. There are no church banners, nothing to distinguish people from certain churches. It’s just one Body, working together under the vision of our King. It’s an amazing day.
Last year, joining together and working with Madras Gospel Mission (a local discipleship, emergency shelter, soup kitchen ministry), our churches have moved ministries and programming from their local bodies to MGM’s Community Center. At this neutral place, ministry can happen that is in the name of Christ instead of a certain church. Our pastor, Ron Mulkey, has a desire to see people freed from the burden of debt. He has led numerous Financial Peace classes both at our congregation and at other churches. He brought this much-needed class as one of our church’s contributions. Other churches brought various discipling classes, child care, Bible studies, and parenting classes as well as combining the different Celebrate Recovery ministries under one roof.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. We share joint youth ministry summer activities, an all-church 4th of July worship celebration where different congregations take on different roles in the service, an all-church Thanksgiving service.
Moments like these remind me of Christ’s vision that we be united under our Lord as Shepherd. In these moments we also discover that our local body is missing vital parts that only being united as the larger Church can fulfill.
Jesus prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23).