We had voted as a church that we would seriously consider merging with Inglewood Church of Christ as well as sell all our property and build a multi-purpose Performing Arts Centre.
I spoke with Pastor Colin Craggs, the Pastor at Inglewood, about this possibility. He was open to it, but the obvious question was, who would be the Senior Pastor? Both of us knew that this was a key decision that needed to be made, you can’t lead a church via a committee.
While Colin and I conversed very reasonably about this, the truth is I believed I needed to continue in the major leadership position, and he was not so sure. That is fair enough. I also met with the Inglewood Church of Christ board as well.
About four years later I found out at the Combined Baptist/Church of Christ Pastors Conference that Colin was leaving Inglewood Church of Christ to go to India to help with training Pastors to plant churches.
On the Monday morning I approached Colin about whether a merge was a possibility. He told me that there was a board meeting that night to discuss the future of the Church. There was a number of options available to them, close the church, replant the church or look for another Pastor. All these were problematic for them, but all would have had some good outcomes as well.
I asked Colin if we could put a fourth option on the agenda….merge.
He agreed and we arranged a meeting with the Board Chairperson and Elder in the Church. After some prayer and discussion, it seemed pretty obvious to us all that this could be of God.
The board met, and they agreed a merger might be the best option.
Neither Church was desperate or had to merge to survive, but perhaps the sum of the two could be greater than the whole. The average size of an Australian Protestant church is 70 people, and there is a reason for that. It is the hardest growth barrier to overcome. We where going to overcome it with one decision.
We set about drafting a ‘document of understanding”. Believe me, this was well thought out, though done swiftly. We were really frank and talked about everything we thought people would ask about. One of the hallmarks of this merge was that it would be built on trust. We used the analogy of a marriage. When you get married, you become one, it is for life, and as Christians, divorce it not an option. Having said that, for denominational reasons, we did eventually put in some principles in case things did not work, but we were determined they would.
Colin was determined that we would merge as soon as possible, and I agreed. Within 6 weeks we were meeting together on Sunday as One Church. We started to meet together after Inglewood Church of Christ agreed to the merge, as Bedford Baptist already had, there was no need for a vote. After 6 weeks of meeting together, we launched the church to the public, with a big opening service. Pastor Graham Maybury spoke, and gave an inspiring message.
We were well on our way to sustained growth.