Church and Churches – by Jonathan Leeman

This post originally appeared on 9Marks’ website.  Jonathan Leeman is the Editorial Director for 9Marks.  He edits the 9Marks series of books as well as the 9Marks Journal. He is also the author of several books on the church. Since his call to ministry, Jonathan has earned a master of divinity from Southern Seminary and has worked as an interim pastor. He is also working on his Ph.D. in ecclesiology. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Cheverly, Maryland.

Church and Churches

It’s a strange balance that a pastor must strike. On the one hand, he must fight for his church. He will give it his best daytime hours, his prayerful nights, his affections and tears, his material comforts and sometimes his health, even his most precious friendships.

On the other hand, a pastor should be willing to let it all go. Let it fire him. Let it close its doors if circumstances require. Let the church down the street run the victory lap, even as his congregation fades into the night.

Why this unworldly balance? Because Christ’s kingdom is made visible in our churches, but Christ’s kingdom is bigger than any one of our churches. We strive so long as we are given opportunity, but we know that Jesus’ victory does not finally hang on our little assembly.

It is easy to be territorial as a pastor. You love your church, and who has time to invest in other churches? But part of building a healthy church is knowing how your church should relate to others. Right relationships help your church to be holy internally, to be a good witness outwardly, and to plant a new generation of churches.

In other words, cultivating good relationships between churches helps to fulfill the Great Commission.

The first article in this 9Marks Journal is the one place we let our congregational colors shine. It is important to understand the sense in which your church is independent. But the rest of the issue focuses on cooperation, first in big-picture pieces by Bobby Jamieson and me, and then in a series of topic-specific articles by other brothers.

Toby Jenkins gives a wonderful testimony of how other local churches served his own in a time of crisis. Greg Gilbert explains why and how he prays for nearby churches on Sunday mornings…in his church service…out loud, like, into a microphone. Deepak Reju, Andy Johnson, and I talk about inter-church cooperation in pastoring, missions work, and discipline. Also, we hope you enjoy the forum on denominations from brothers representing several.

We pray God would be pleased to strengthen each of our churches as he strengthens them together.

By Jonathan Leeman