A liberal Presbyterian, a Seventh Day Adventist, a Taiwanese immigrant, and a conservative Evangelical all walk into a building for a drink. Sounds like the beginning of a crude joke, doesn’t it? But this is no joke. This is the reality for four congregations in northern Cincinnati. In a 30-year-old facility located in Sharonville, OH, a suburb just north of downtown Cincinnati, four different congregations share the very same church house.
The building is officially owned by the Church By the Woods, formerly Sharonville Presbyterian Church. They built the facility back in 1980. As part of their continued ministry in the area, they formed the Cincinnati Taiwanese Presbyterian ministries to reach a growing segment of their ethnically diverse community. Both churches have about 15 to 20 parishioners with hopes of reaching more.
But these are not the only two churches involved in the partnership. A Seventh Day Adventist group meets on Saturday mornings and since 2010 Freedom Church, a six-year-old church plant, has moved into the shared space.
With four congregations sharing one building, flexibility, love and mutual appreciation rule the day. While the theologies and convictions of each church are rather different in the spectrum of the Christian faith, they have found that they can do more in reaching Sharonville working together than apart.
This situation represents a potential win-win solution for many smaller congregations and church plants. With the sky-rocketing cost of building commercial real estate, the escalating population of major cities, and the desperate need for more churches to be planted in under-served areas, aspiring church leaders can find hope in working alongside existing churches for the expansion of God’s kingdom.
There is no question about it, at times a partnership like this can be tough. Who cleans the bathrooms? Who gets priority spaces in the parking lot? Who decides the color of the walls and carpet? The scheduling of worship, Bible studies, prayer services, and fellowships must be carefully navigated, allowing each church to have their fair share of the calendar. But if these obstacles can be worked out, is not Jesus more honored and exalted?
In a world that believes Christians are constantly fighting and fussing with each other over doctrine, morality and worship styles, is this not a better picture of the unity we can share through our risen Savior?
These four congregations solve their differences is by majoring on the Gospel. They worship together corporately on Christmas Eve and during Holy Week prior to Easter. But for the remainder of the year, they stay united by continual conversation, adaptability and keeping an eternal perspective in mind.
On one particular Saturday, the Seventh-day Adventists were worshiping in the sanctuary while Freedom Church was ordaining a new pastor to the ministry, all the while the Taiwanese Presbyterians were preparing for an afternoon wedding. People from various walks of life, who speak different languages, and who come from very different theological worldviews were bustling around facility showing grace and hospitality.
Now some may call this ecumenicalism. Others may suggest that biblical convictions are being compromised. Still others might accuse these four churches of neglecting their theological roots in exchange for a cheaper mortgage payment.
But I would disagree with these naysayers. I believe these four churches are displaying a willingness to share their lives and lay down their own conveniences for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.
In the end, all of these believers will be sharing space in heaven, why not get used to it now?
Originally written for http://kyforward.com