Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Unique Opportunity: Two Churches One Location
An Open Letter to The Harbor Community Church

            Early this spring Greg Buettmann forwarded an email that we had received thru our website from Walt Eischmann, a member of Jefferson Hills Church which meets at Windsor High School in Imperial, MO.
           After 6 years of meeting and traveling around various facilities  in the Windsor campus   they began to look for an alternative meeting location. They learned what many new churches discover retail property is expensive. They were looking to rent, purchase outright, or purchase with the intent of subletting a portion of their space to recoup some of the costs.
            Somewhere in the course of their conversations the idea came up of approaching existing churches about renting space from them. They set the criteria that the church would have a similar outlook on church and ministry.  Walt began that search and came across our website thus the email I mentioned earlier.
            In response to that email, Greg Buettmann, Bill Smith  and I believed we should meet with them and hear what was on their hearts – after all this was the kind of weirdness that seems to be a part of our DNA. Bill and I had breakfast with Walt and the Lead Pastor, Steve Benke at Denny’s. It was amazing, Walt had the same passions as Bill and Steve and I had very similar stories and our journeys of the last few years mirrored each other.
            Steve and I both grew up in denominational life, went to college and seminary in denominational schools, served in denominational churches; in fact, we both served less than 10 miles from one another for 12 years and had never met. What a shame!
            From that breakfast meeting we  committed ourselves to meet again, this time with Greg.  As we all prayed together about the idea of sharing our space we went from asking God to making His will clear to asking God to stop this process if we were heading in the wrong direction.
            Eventually our leadership team and the leadership team of Jefferson Hills met  at The Harbor. I must say the first few minutes of the meeting were as awkward as an Eighth Grade Homecoming dance. We took the opportunity to go around the room and share how we came to be leaders in missional churches. This time of sharing solidified both groups understanding that first and foremost serving God this way was not a sign of insanity – there are others out there just like us! And secondly, we all sensed a wooing of God’s Spirit and a calling of our paths to be shared in a very unique way.
            So, today I am sharing with you that our Leadership Team, unanimously announces our plans to invite Jefferson Hills Church to share our space with us.
            Here are some pertinent details:
·         JHC will be paying us rent. We are working out the fine details of that this week.

·         We have developed a relationship covenant that has built in benchmarks that require both Leadership Teams to evaluate this relationship thoroughly. If one Leadership Team believes that there are problems in the process we have agreed that both Leadership Teams will view that as failure to achieve one of the benchmarks which will then allow us to part as family.
                     First Benchmark:This benchmark asks, “Can we exist side by side?” If so, consider ministry team partnerships.

                       Second Benchmark: This benchmark asks, “Can we exist side by side AND partner?” If so,
       consider longer term sustainability of shared vision.

                               Third Benchmark: This benchmark asks, “Can we exist side by side AND partner AND  pursue  a shared future?” If so consider site expansion/building purchase.
·         We will begin this relationship on September 30th with a combined time of worship here at THCC where we will have a joint outdoor service as an opportunity to get to know one another. We will have lunch together on that day. We will have a second combined worship experience on November 25th at Jefferson Hills Church.

·         We will then have at least three Test Drive Sundays. These are to give us the opportunity to gradually work together to get all the kinks out of the system as two churches learn to have worship in the same location at different times.  Once we finalize our plans we will post these dates here and in other avenues.

·        Worship Schedule. The schedule is; JHC worship @ 9AM; fellowship time from 10:00AM – 10:40AM; THCC Worship to begin at 10:45AM. The simplest way to explain this process is that this is what we would need to be doing if we were to plan two worship services on Sunday morning.

·          We will be asking you to help in several areas: parking lot attendants as we seek to help people navigate the coming and going of additional vehicles. We will be asking you to help with being guides to help people navigate entering and leaving the building.
There are many more details to be discussed and more information to be shared. We will do our best to keep you in the loop and answer any questions you may have. If this sounds like a strange idea – it is! But please remember, God is doing something very different among us and his grace has been sufficient to this point which should give us the confidence that he will lead us in this endeavor also.
In closing, just imagine the opportunity we will have to repair the image of 'church' in our community. Imagine the opportunity to join with a church and be blessed by their strengths and to assist them in their weaknesses. We each will be able to do ministry better and more effectively as we partner together to reach our community.
I am asking you today, to covenant together with our Leadership Team to pray daily about this opportunity. Pray that God will guide us clearly, that we will see and understand that leadership. Pray that we will be wise in this endeavor and get the little details right so as not to trip over minutia. Pray that this will be an opportunity to open the hurting and maybe closed off hearts of people who have been rejected by the church in the past, who have said, “I don’t want anything to do with those people!”. Pray that this will be an occasion for a fresh wind of God’s presence in our hurting community. And finally, pray that God and God alone will receive glory as Jefferson Hills Church and The Harbor Community Church seek to demonstrate that God has indeed made one people out of separate, cut off, fearful people.

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