Bonding the Splice
The process of church unification is just that—a process. It
must be slow and purposeful. It must be prayer soaked and
Scripture infused. It doesn’t necessarily happen through
committee meetings, boards, and lawyers, though those are
important and inescapable. Unity of this kind must be both
organic and organizational. It must not be reactive or rushed,
characteristics that almost all church splits share. It has more
to do with talks around the kitchen table and teaching the
Word from the pulpit than voting. Unity must be based in
Biblical exegesis more than anything. It must be Trinitarian
( John 17: 21). It must be carefully taught and actively sought.
It cannot be imposed, only envisioned.
Complete unity is far from attained. We still have large
hurdles to jump (imagine a single Baptist church owning two
church properties), and complete integration will take time.
Of course much more needs to be done. I have no illusions;
apprehension still exists. At the same time, witnessing sanctification is an incredible sight. The more I think about it, the
more I believe church unity to be like sanctification. Both now
and in the future, present and hoped, implied and reached for,
pressing and pressing on. Again Paul comes to mind (
Philippians 2). After describing the indescribable humility and
complexity of the Incarnation, he encouraged his readers to
“work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God
who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good
pleasure” (vv. 12, 13, NASB).
Church unity, like living out salvation, ought to be terrifying. Once a church realizes that the Almighty is already
actively working in them to bring about His own glory, and
that the terrible and wonderful “Day of Christ” is just over
the horizon, I see no other alternative. Yet in this tension of
both present and future, there is incredible beauty. Beauty in
resting in God’s control, beauty in daily reaching after Christ,
and beauty in the mysterious unity of congregational diversity.
Ardently seek salvation because you already have it! Actively
seek church unity because you already have Christ!
The Next Chapter
Every church, like every life, is a story. There is a beginning
and ending. There is victory and defeat, tension and resolu-
tion, trials and triumphs. Isn’t that what makes a good story
though? The New Testament is replete with stories of churches
ever struggling yet always striving. I pray the tale of our two
churches becoming one will forever point unequivocally to its
loving and sovereign Author. While I don’t know everything
about the next chapter in my church’s tale, I’ve read another
story by the same Author. The end of that tale, which is really
the end of every story, is all about the One “who was and is
and is to come.”
Brett Williams (PhD candidate, Central Baptist Theological Seminary) is
pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Austin, Minn., where he lives with his
wife, Naomi, and three children.
I have seen malice turned
to grace, pain evolve into
forgiveness, and ardent
individualism give way to unity.
I have personally witnessed
the power of the Holy Spirit
through the plain teaching of
Pray regularly as pastors and leaders. Both pastors met for
prayer and fellowship even before the matter of reunification was mentioned.
Preach through relevant texts. Both pastors were committed to expository preaching, so we chose New Testament
passages that addressed our issues.
Ask for advice. I consulted with current and former professors and administrators at Faith Baptist Bible College and
Central Baptist Theological Seminary, who helped sort out
polity and practical matters.
Identify obstacles. Issues need to be addressed head-on
with forthright clarity. In our case, a pure merger would not
have worked. Controversial matters such as church name,
leadership, constitution, and governance had to be openly
and honestly discussed.
Consult with older congregation members. I spent time
visiting many of the members who had the longest institutional memories, carefully explaining the ongoing process.
Model transparency. We discussed, debated, dialogued,
made mistakes, and sought forgiveness. All of this was
recorded in frequent reports to both congregations.
Begin with fellowship. Our two churches worked together
for banquets, VBS, a ladies’ craft workshop, and other fellowship opportunities.
Honor the law and Baptist polity. The process of unifying two churches should result in one legally incorporated
church. We arranged for one church to be absorbed, with
the members formally incorporated in the remaining
Postpone issues until consensus builds. We still have not
decided which church building best suits our needs. One
will be sold, and the other adapted to suit the needs of our