When two or more congregations exist within fairly close proximity of each other, tensions, jealousies, and rivalries often exist.
I don’t think that anyone would affirm that this is the will of the Lord, so what can be done to remove the tensions that exist, and enhance congregational cooperation? Here are five tips…
- Communicate with each other. Let each other know when special events are scheduled, and even check with each other before you schedule an event. Otherwise, it is probable that schedules will conflict, and these conflicts will prevent joint participation with each other. Also, share and announce each others successes and prayer needs.
- Respect Each Others Decisions. Sometimes, a congregation will have to practice discipline against an unruly and impenitent member. Rather than repenting, this member will often simply seek and unfortunately find fellowship just across town. When elders from two respective congregations work together, not only will they solidify relations, they will cease being a safe harbor for unfaithful Christians who refuse to repent.
- Respect Each Others Autonomy. Remember that elders are commissioned to oversee the flock among them (1 Peter 5:2). Therefore, a church should not pass judgment on another church because of decisions and practices that differ within the realm of opinion. One congregation can have strong opinions about the employment of such matters as Bible classes, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services, the use of contemporary songs or traditional songs, and small groups. Those opinions may differ from the practices of the church across town. However, those differences in expediency should be allowed to exist without there being judgment and suspicion or contempt and ridicule of each other.
- Don’t Receive or Spread Slander About Each Other. “Church-hoppers” frequently get dissatisfied, leave a church, and slander their former congregation to their new congregation. Christian love requires us to believe the best in each other (1 Corinthians 13:7). Congregations and leaderships within congregations should give each other the benefit of the doubt and not foster or provide an opportunity for such negative talk.
- Don’t Steal Sheep! When a member of an area church visits your church, don’t recruit them to join you. Allow them to simply be visitors. Trying to steal sheep from one flock to join up with another breeds distrust, resentment, and a spirit of competition and rivalry rather than a spirit of camaraderie.
Friends, local congregations within close proximity of each other should never lose sight of the fact that they are laborers together in the Kingdom. Instead of seeing each other as rivals, they should take advantage of the fellowship and strength they are privileged to enjoy because of their close proximity!