Finding a Congregation to Merge With (Let the Spirit Do the Walking)

As a teenager, I was awful with girls. I was an arrogant, intelligent, short guy with bad eye sight and no athletic skills. My friends were all serial daters, going from one girl to the next. My entire dating life consisted of relationships with four girls, and I married the last one.

Part of my problem was that I would settle for whatever female was approximate to me and available. Since I was an annoying twit, these girls were almost always desperate or felt bad for me. I had plenty of female friends, but they treated me as just that – a friend. (I think some of them secretly thought I was gay.)

In brief, until I met my wife, I settled for what was around. That’s not to say these girls weren’t wonderful people, because they were. Today, one is a missionary and the others are wives and mothers to beautiful children. It was just that I took whatever came along – whoever was convenient. And I then convinced myself that it was God’s will that I be with that person.

An Inconvenient Truth

The fact is that many Christians think the same way. Whatever method or program is sexy or available at the time must be God’s will. Church mergers aren’t sexy, that’s for sure, but perhaps you’re reading this because someone recommended you check out our story and you’re thinking, “Maybe this is what God wants for us as well.”

Allow me to inconvenience you.

If God wants to merge your congregation, then he will point you to the congregation he has for you to merge with. If you read over the story of our merger, you will see half a dozen “coincidences” in the process of our unification. God was working on his own schedule and making things happen – a friendship here, a casual prayer there, a preparatory vision step over there.

But the congregation he has for you isn’t necessarily the one that is easily at hand. At Heritage, we considered three other mergers – all with churches much closer to our location. They were the easy ones, and God slammed the doors as we tried to walk through them.

Remember those old Yellow Pages commercials with the slogan, “Let your fingers do the walking”? In this case, it is “Let the Spirit do the walking”. If you’ve got a merger in your future, then it doesn’t catch God by surprise and he is coordinating things to bring things together at the right time.

Knowing It Is a Match

We often thought of our merger as the marriage of Mike and Jan Brady from the 1970’s TV show “The Brady Bunch.” God brought the leaders together, and then we figured out how to live together. (Although, I don’t know what Mike and Jan were doing, bringing beautiful teenage girls and handsome teenage boys together in the same house with minimal supervision…sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.)

If there is an opportunity for merger that God has brought to your attention, consider these questions:

  • Do we share the same doctrine? In our case, we shared the same beliefs as well as the same concerns about certain touchy subjects such as music, alcohol, dress, women’s roles, and such.
  • Do we share a similar ministry style? Although Grace was a bit more formal than Heritage, the people easily warmed to the style we shared casually.
  • Do we have the same kinds of things going on/have gone on? Looking through photos on our websites, it was amazing to see both congregations engaged in the same kinds of picnics, events, and formats that we enjoyed at Heritage.
  • Can we identify affinities between or among specific people? In our first joint service, I was able to introduce people from both congregations to one another and immediately they connected. A former missionary from Grace met a former missionary from Heritage, and it turned out they knew some of the same people. Electricians met carpenters. Geeks met geeks. Goofs met goofs. Teens met teens. It became evident to them that we had a lot in common.

These are just some preliminary thoughts, and I am sure you could come up with many other questions to ask as well.

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