In 2020, First Baptist Church is going to look for ways to practice “sacred partnering.” Mark Tidsworth, our speaker for our ReShape Conference on March 14th (who will also join us Sunday morning, March 15th in Sunday School and worship), describes what sacred partnering is in his book Shift: Three Big Moves for the 21st Century Church (a book I’m reading now – and highly recommend to all of you!).
He says that sacred partnering happens among disciples seeking to follow Jesus – it happens within the church community parameters, and it happens with other Christians and groups in our wider community with whom we share a spiritual identity. These kinds of partnerships are deeper relationships than the casual friendships we may have around town (or even sometimes in church!). We partner because we are in deep relationship with God and each other. And we are in relationship because we cultivate that over the typical “consumeristic” kinds of church that can undermine what church community ought to be, which is inherently relational. And people engaged in sacred partnering have to do so intentionally.
To that end, we will begin a process of rethinking how we partner in sacred ways soon. We will walk together through an intentional process of reflecting on who we are and what our ministries should look like in this new season / decade. Following our ReShape conference, we will pray, discern, and commit to new identity and ministry together. We will do so in large groups, small groups, and with a leadership team from within the church body to guide us. And we will do some of this work alongside our fellow Christians in this community.
Two churches in the City of Martinsville with whom we share a lot of history, friendship, and identity already are Chatham Heights Baptist Church and Starling Avenue Baptist Church. This year, we will become more intentional about our sacred partnering with them. On February 16, I will preach at Chatham Heights for Baptist Woman’s Day, and Rev. Brian Harrington will preach for us at FBC. During Holy Week, we will share daily services, including three days of luncheon services, followed by a Maundy Thursday and Good Friday service. We will share space, choirs, and preachers.
We will also share in the beginning steps of re-imagining ministry together. We are all three on the planning team for ReShape, and we all are prayerfully considering with church leadership a “Community of Practice” process, where we walk alongside each other in similar (and sometimes shared!) ministry visioning. Mark Tidsworth, who has helped so many churches and denominations re-invigorate and re-imagine ministry, says that churches in this process should expect the following outcomes from this process:
- Spiritual invigoration: Enlivening and growing faith through “Making The Shift”
- Congregational Connection: Strengthening relationships with others in our congregations
- Raised Awareness: Learning about our postmodern context and hopeful, life-giving movements rising up in the Church universal
- Transforming Our Congregation: Shifting toward becoming a 21st century congregation
- Vision Identification: Discerning our unique role in God’s movement in our community
We hope to continue to find ways to worship and serve together with sacred partners like CHBC and SABC. We know that we will find support, encouragement, accountability, and collaborative creativity when we do so.
I ask that in the following weeks as we prepare to embark on this journey that you pray for the following:
- That we listen for God’s voice and set aside our own desires
- That we thoughtfully consider all the ways God’s creative work can shine through our own
- That we not grow weary of doing this good work, but stay positive and hopeful throughout
- That we lean on our sacred partners – both within and outside the church walls – to have support when discernment and new ministry initiatives get daunting
- That we hold tight to our commitment to God’s Kingdom work, whatever that may look like for 2020 and beyond
Friends, I’m excited about our shared ministry and all the ways God will form and transform us through this process.