#ReimagineCHURCH...Together. A Partnership Across Your City.
Phil Miglioratti @ The Reimagine.Network Interviewed David Gadoury of the TOGETHER Partnership
PHIL >>> "TOGETHER Partnership" could sound like a company or corporation ...
DAVE >>> In 2010 thirty Rhode Island pastors met in agreement to bind together to see a change in our churches towards a new kind of church culture and approach to ministry that would be more outwardly focused on the lost around us and that would lift up the values of intentional prayer for people far from God, of compassionate service to such people, and of everyday people's personal proclamation of the good news TO the lost - Prayer/Care/Share for short. At the time we called it "LoveRI"
Over the years numerous efforts and activities related to each of those three values were conducted, many more churches became involved in them (more than eighty), and necessary organizational structures were created. Along the way also came a name change to TOGETHER.
PHIL >>> What prepared you to lead a collaborative partnership of congregations and ministries?
DAVE >>> It seemed to have started with my involvement with others in participating in several Pastors' Prayer Summits and with my role in organizing such summits for RI pastors. From the networks formed by those summits, the TOGETHER partnership would eventually emerge and I was asked by others to play a leading role. Seven years later our leadership team invited me to take this on full time.
So what prepared me for this? My experiences with prayer summits would top the list. But i now realize how God had been preparing me for this years in advance in other ways as well. For example, years earlier I had been required to make personal contacts with believing Christians and pastors from virtually every Christian denomination in four different parts of the country - over 4,000 in all over four summers. And before that, my own grandfather had served as a pastor in two completely different church traditions.
PHIL >>> We have both witnessed and participated in "ctyreaching" initiatives, such as "City Impact Roundtable," and "Loving Our Communities to Christ." Regional and national ministries have emerged, such as Christ Together, City Gospel Movements, Movement Day. How do you assess this movement of citywide church unity?
DAVE >>> The emergence of these similar movements (often without known human collaboration) suggests that this is a work of God's Spirit. And I see this is a response to various factors: (1) While we have always felt the burden of the Great Commission, the turn of the Western World away from its Judaeo-Christian roots has made us more keenly aware that we are truly living in a mission field and need to act more like missionaries; (2) There is a natural yearning in believers' hearts to connect with Christ followers outside of their own networks. I think this is because we have been "taught of God to love one another"; (3) The modern distrust of or at least ambivalence toward denominational structures and institutions has made us more inclined to seek more organic and functionally relevant networks and relationships with other Christians in our communities.
As I look at these developments I see two competing tendencies that sometimes may get in the way. On the one hand, our action and results inclinations cause some to jump ahead to the planning of service and/or gospel oriented programs and activities without first building the kinds of relationships of love and trust needed to sustain such efforts. Others are so enamored of the idea of church unity and harmony that pastoral fellowship becomes an end in itself. But pursuing unity for its own sake overlooks the compelling need to unite around the mission of Jesus and the purpose of his church.
PHIL >>> For many, collaboration is scary, for some it is heresy.
• How do you navigate theological differences?DAVE >>Unity doesn't just happen. It takes discernment and diligent intentionality. The discerning part of that is keeping clearly in mind the difference between core theological commitments that unite us and less foundational convictions and traditions (the majors from the minors). We need to know which hills we will die on and which ones we will overlook. The intentionality part is having the will and prudence to avoid those things that will make it harder for others to keep their focus on those majors.• Agree/Disagree: A citywide partnership needs a variety of on-ramps, such as evangelism, prayer, community service or development, so that each congregation can determine the focus and limitations of their involvement.
DAVE >> I agree. Some groups are more prepared and inclined to take some steps than others.• Agree/Disagree: Pastors must be included and in leadership but Christian ministries and Christians in business, education, social services must also be at the table. A diversity of social sectors and ethnicities.
DAVE >>> I disagree with the "but" in that sentence. It takes BOTH. It takes ALL to reach ALL. And not all LEADERS are PASTORAL leaders. But there are some essential components of a healthy city gospel movement that require the leadership of the pastors uniquely. If they don't get involved, those things just won't happen.
PHIL >>> Unpack these descriptors -
- Advance The Gospel
DAVE >>>"Advance the Gospel" is a tag line for our TOGETHER partnership. Its routine appearance reminds us that the ultimate reason for all that we do is about the Gospel of Christ (i.e, not togetherness for its own sake.)
- Together We Pray
DAVE >>>This is the name we have given to one aspect of what we do: an organized way to foster 24/7 prayer throughout our region. Churches adopt one day out of each month to raise up volunteer intercessors to pray, in unity with believers from other churches on other respective days, using a prayer guide we provide for them all. Its themes both give us a way to preserve the "one accord" nature of those prayers, while at the same time inculcating the values of church unity, servant evangelism, and the salt and light lives of everyday believers.
DAVE >>> These are the three core values of our united mission. They represent both three categories of the various united initiatives we pursue, and also our understanding of the best sequence of our involvements with the lost world around us. These are pursued at three levels: the individual's personal work; the corporate work of congregations; and on occasion the collaborative activities of churches in communities
PHIL >>> How does a citywide collaboration strengthen the work of the Church in:
- Making Disciples
DAVE >>> I'll start with a qualifier: It is possible to "collaborate" in ways that are either more, or less, strengthening of the church's work. Some "co-labor" just gets people busier than they were, or gets them working together in ways that alienate rather than reach the lost, or perpetuates ministry strategies that miss the point. The collaborations I have in mind are those which reinforce the ministries of prayer, which encourage genuine love and service towards people far from God, and which foster the transmission of the gospel through everyday Christians with the people in their circles of influence.
So, how does this does strengthen the making of disciples? First, it encourages and helps more people become more involved in the first step of making a disciple by having them advance the identity and claims of Jesus with the people they rub shoulders with. And when these come to faith (become disciples), those who have prayed for them, loved them, and begun to share the good news with them, are FAR more likely to take responsibility for the next steps in their faith journey and continue "making disciples."
- Proclaiming the Gospel
DAVE >>> A collaboration around the gospel gives pastors more opportunities to motivate and mobilize believers into the process of sharing the gospel with friends.
- Pursuing Justice / Ministering to Poor
DAVE >>> Service projects, whether by a congregation or organized city wide, can tend to become ends in themselves where proclaiming the gospel to the people served (or to non-believers who are invited to join in as servers) is never gotten around to. BUT this need not be so if leaders are keen to elevate the gospel mission of such activities. More importantly, these occasional "projects" can be useful experiences that can help individual Christian begin to discover ways they can live out a serving lifestyle of their own on a personal level.
PHIL >>> What wisdom or warning will you pass along to your successor?
DAVE >>>I have been, and will continue to remind him that: (1) Unity is not easy. If it were, Jesus would not have made it such a prayer priority. Don't be discouraged. (2) Seeing a gospel movement emerge is not a short term process. Don't expect quick results, and don't be surprise by setbacks. (3) Major on relationships. One to one beats mass mailing every time.
PHIL >>> Dave, give us a prayer that calls for a Church of the City that loves their communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ...
DAVE >>>Lord Jesus, you said you would build your church. Grow your family in love, in numbers, in unity, and in spiritual strength in our city.
Lord Jesus, you came to seek and save what was lost. Show us how to seek the lost and see them saved.
Lord Jesus, you didn't come to be served, but to serve. Teach us how to serve our neighbors and friends in your name.
Lord Jesus, you taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come." May you reign over the lives of more and more people in our city, for your glory.