Vigorous spiritual health and ministry arise from interaction between churches and cell groups as much as from interaction within them. The many New Testament commands to serve “one another” apply to all congregations and cell groups; no one church in an area is the whole Body of Christ. In pioneer fields, infant churches often help each other a great deal, because all are weak and need help. As churches grow in age, size and wealth, many come to feel self-sufficient, so they break off healthy ties of support and restraint with other congregations. This leads to defective ministry.
Churches in New Testament times interacted healthily, using their various spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12-13, Eph. 4:11-12; Rom. 12:3-11). The New Testament churches in Jerusalem and Ephesus were not large congregations that met only in one place; they were clusters of closely-knit house churches that celebrated communion and learned the Word of God in members’ homes (Acts 2:46; 20:20).
The Book of Acts and the New Testament epistles have these instances of inter-church service:
- Workers visiting or moving to another area to help other churches: Acts 8:14; 11:20-23; 11:27-30; 14:21-23; 15:2-4; 15:23-27; Romans 15:25; 15:40-41; 16:1-2; 1 Corinthians 16:16-17; 2 Corinthians 8:17-19; Philemon 22; 18:21-23; 18:27; Titus 1:5.
- One congregation sending financial help to another: Acts 24:17; Romans 15:26-27; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8.
- Believers greeting friends in other churches: Romans 16:3;-15, 21-23; 1 Corinthians 16:19-20; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Philippians 4:21-22; Colossians 4:10-15; 2 Timothy 4:19-21; Titus 3:15; Philemon 23-24; Hebrews 13:24; 1 Peter 5:13; 2 John 13; 3 John 14.
A church’s greatest weakness is its greatest strength taken to excess. This painful truism points to a common imbalance in churches’ ministries’ one ministry overshadows the others. An experienced worker can often detect another church’s blind spots.
Interaction between congregations requires communication at a regional level. Regional fellowships serving a limited area in practical ways prove a blessing and source of strength. At regional conferences, once called “camp meetings”, many find Christ, receive challenging teaching, meet godly spouses, and find doors opening into fruitful ministry. Such meaningful interaction takes place among churches located near enough to join in fellowship, evangelism, intercession and mercy work.
However, wherever leaders organize on a scale too large for churches to interact directly in practical ways, their organization often becomes political, a tool of power-hungry controllers, which causes much friction. If the distance between churches is too far for hands-on, grass-root interaction, then the focus shifts from joint projects and fellowship to inter-church politics, which easily become corrupt.
Churches seeking help to strengthen a ministry too often send leaders to a workshop to learn some new method. They go asking, “How can we do it?” That is often the wrong question. Developing good communication between churches does not always require attending workshops or seminars to learn another method. A better question is “Who can help us do it?” – a relational solution. Folk willing to help are often available in other congregations, if one lets them know the need.
Not only pastors but also all Christ’s servants can reach out to members of other churches. Have you visited a church and left disappointed because no one spoke warmly to you? Then, shame on you! Why not take the lead? Let the example start with you; the Holy Spirit will anoint your effort.