Ministry is not for sissies. Yet, far too often, many local churches exist as islands in their local communities with little to no true partnership with other churches. In many ways, the pastors grow discouraged in the journey. Is there a biblical case for churches working together? As we examine the functionality of the local church in the pages of the New Testament, there is ample evidence of associational engagement, church partnership, and ministry networking that took place between individuals and local churches. As we survey our present ministry context, how can we accomplish healthy networking that will ultimately glorify God and not be a waste of time for busy pastors?
Within the pages of the New Testament, we see autonomous local churches working together in a way that honors God and produces healthy fruit. For instance, in Acts 8, we see Philip proclaiming the gospel in Samaria to great crowds (Acts 8:6). This was happening in the wake of growing persecution. However, when the apostles heard of this ministry, they engaged with help. In Acts 8:14 we read the following:
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John.
First of all, consider the fact that they sent people, not just their money. Sometimes, money and resources is exactly what is needed to supply help in gospel ministry, but in other occasions, gifted people are needed. For instance, when the gospel was preached to Gentiles in Antioch, the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas there to assist with the work. Luke provides us with the report (Acts 11:23-24):
When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
After this, Barnabas traveled to Tarsus and found Saul and brought him to Antioch where they stayed for a full year teaching, making disciples, and strengthening the local church. Interestingly, Barnabas and Saul (later the apostle Paul), apparently moved their membership to Antioch. What was intended to be a temporary partnership became something much more. After pastors and leaders were established at Antioch, it would be this very church that sent Paul and Barnabas out to engage in church planting work (Acts 13:1-3).
In some cases, finances are needed to be shared from church to church in order to further gospel ministry in a specific region. We see this in the ministry of the apostle Paul (Rom. 15:26; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8-9). When a devastating famine rocked Jerusalem, we see Paul and Barnabas sent to deliver the collection gathered by the believers in Antioch for the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11). In Romans 16, we find Paul commending Phoebe who likely delivered the letter to the church at Rome. She was a servant and one who greatly helped Paul’s ministry. It’s believed that she was a woman who had likely been blessed financially and had been generous in her contributions. Paul commends her to the church at Rome and the members of the church there would have an opportunity to receive her and minister to her as well.
More than Associational
While it is apparent that each church acted independently from a leadership perspective, these local churches were autonomous but remained committed to the central work of gospel preaching and church planting together.
In many local associations, the relationships between pastors and local churches are minimal and shallow. This is often based on the differences of ecclesiology, doctrine, and ministry philosophy. In those associations, the pastors will gather together for information lunches and talk shop together, but the level of genuine prayer, ministry partnership, and networking is kept to a minimum.
Though the years, I have watched the associational model of the SBC ebb and flow and decline. While some local SBC associations still have good fellowship and partnership in ministry as they are led by gifted leaders—many associations have struggled to remain effective. In some ways, the associational model used today was designed for church ministry before the boom of technology. Today, we can Zoom and talk with churches for ministry partnership who may not share the same zip code.
Over the last couple of years, the thought of the G3 Church Network was certainly on my mind as I longed for something more than a shallow association of churches. Today, we enjoy profitable networking opportunities within the G3 Church Network that was not available in the past. The G3 Church Network is not aiming at the big tent approach that fosters shallow associational relationships and flat impersonal church relationships. Instead, we narrowed the focus on doctrine and included the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel as one more means to narrow the focus in order for the churches who make up this network to find our partnership for ministry profitable and encouraging.
How is the G3 Church Network Connected?
Doctrinally: The G3 Church Network is a group of confessional churches who subscribe to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. While there are options for each church to specify qualifications, as a minimum, the churches in the network must have leaders who subscribe to the 1689 even if the church’s official doctrinal statement differs. For instance, if the church is a SBC church and has the Baptist Faith & Message as it’s official doctrinal statement, but the pastors who lead that church subscribe to the 1689, the church can be welcomed into the network. The goal is to have a stake in the ground from a doctrinal perspective in order to avoid the big tent approach that makes the network less effective than it would be if the churches were more likeminded.
Monthly Zoom Calls: While we are not all clones of one another, our time together in our monthly meetings provides us with opportunities to hear reports from G3 Ministries and partnering churches. We can put faces to our prayers and hear of ways that our time and financial investments are being put to work for the glory of God.
G3 Ministries App: Throughout the month between our meetings, we have a chat option through our app for all pastors in the G3 Church Network. That enables us to pray for one another, announce projects, and provide direct encouragement on the go. This is helpful for busy pastors who might be checking the messages in an elevator after a hospital visit or first thing in the morning over coffee on a Monday morning after a busy Lord’s Day.
Church Planting and Missions: Twice each year, we pool funds together for the purpose of missions. We have a focus, a goal, and we partner together for that purpose. Beyond giving campaigns, we believe that local churches plant local churches. We encourage partnering churches to publish approved projects through the G3 Church Network for church planting. Every officially published project in the network allows other churches to be directly involved by offering resources, financial support, or even people for the team building. At the very least, we are committed to praying for the churches and church planting projects through the G3 Church Network.
Pastoral Retreat: In the coming months, we will be announcing a pastors’ retreat for the pastors who are members of the G3 Church Network. This will enable us to gather together, fellowship, and spend more time together apart from busy workshops and conferences for more intimate fellowship and prayer.
G3 Church Map: Often times when families relocate or when they have friends who are looking for a new church home, they will go to the church search page on our website for options. We have heard testimonies of pastors in our monthly meetings who have seen dramatic growth from this very tool. They are listed as one of our partnering churches, and families are finding them through this resource. This is a good way to recommend trustworthy churches and a good tool to use to pray for other churches within the network (maybe your church could offer a monthly focus of prayer for a selected church).
Churches working together in gospel ministry is biblical and profitable. Ministry is hard work and often very lonely. It’s important to have men who will walk with you through ministry and provide biblical counsel to you along the journey. The G3 Church Network is not mutually exclusive to other groups, so if you’re interested in joining our growing network of churches, you can fill out the application at G3Min.org.