I am coining a new term that will be the root word of a new brand of religion. The new religion has already kicked off, but will be officially launched with our new Web site: http://www.togetherlinessism.com/. We—the founders of this new religion—are choosing to break this news, here, in Mokena’s paper—the Messenger. You can say you heard it here first! (I hope without seeing my face that you can pick up on the fact that my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek. There is no new Web site. And while we aren’t starting a brand new religion, the tenets of this spirituality are very much in the initial stages of being put into practice.)At the printing of this article, our church—Grace Fellowship Church—and a sister church to us in Mokena—Missio Dei Church—will be three weeks into an experiment. The public part of the experiment will last 7 weeks—but the behind-the-scenes part of it will have lasted even longer. From mid-July through the end of August, Grace and Missio Dei will have spent 7-weeks “doing church together.” Our experiment is to test whether or not two churches can work intimately TOGETHER. And, the thrust of my words in this article will be that TOGETHER is a big difference from side-by-side. To illustrate the difference, I’d have you put the palms of your hands firmly together—pressing in, palm-to-palm, with both sets of fingers sticking up parallel to one another. It would take a little bit of strength, but someone could pry your two hands apart if they grabbed your arms and pulled in opposite directions. This is an illustration of side-by-side.Togetherliness is a different story. To illustrate this, put those palms back together, and then slide your fingers down into one another—where the valley of each finger and knuckle cradles its corresponding fingers in the other hand. Together. It would be much harder for these two hands to be yanked apart. In fact, something would probably get broken if force were used to try and break the lock—or what I would term togetherliness.The book of Ephesians talks about this kind of togetherliness: “Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church. He makes the whole body FIT TOGETHER PERFECTLY. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (4:15-16—nlt). That phrase in the middle—fit together perfectly—really pops out at me. Even the apostles say that Christianity is just another name for Togetherlinessism.The wind-up on this experiment is that it’s not always easy to do things together when it would be easier to do them side-by-side—within a much smaller framework of risk. In other words, there would have been no way we could have inter-locked our fingers and hands if we had not let loose of some of the smaller stuff that we had previously been holding on to too tightly. Like our personal ways of doing stuff. Much like a marriage, both husband and wife covenant to adopt one another’s ways. In a marriage, two people blend their ways of life together—endeavoring to keep the best of both.Now, a number of weeks into the experiment, I have to be honest with you. I never realized all of the extra work involved and complexities of blending two churches’ personalities, approaches, styles, leaders with turf, liturgies, missions, ministries, people and a whole host of other things. It’s turning out to be much more than holding worship gatherings in the same building at the same time. And I am so happy to say—much, much better than I even wished. The way that these two churches’ people and ministry leaders have comported themselves and blended together with one another will go down as LEGENDARY in the religious history annals of Togetherlinessism. This experiment has been both a blast and a success—at least from one guy’s vantage-point. I would bet my last paycheck that God has been beside Himself with joy as He gathers with us and sees us work this stuff out while we do our best to glorify Him. I think He laughs with us when we see the humor in our own idiosyncrasies and approaches. Sticking our stuff out there has been an exercise in trust and humility. We’re not perfect. (Their pastor, Paul Vroom, would tell you the same thing about them.) Sometimes the experiment has forced us to see each others’ junk. And that’s been the most encouraging and re-assuring part of it all. Christians aren’t perfect. Far from it. God’s got a long way to go with us. But, by doing life together, we help God in His refining process of turning us into the best versions of His dreams for us.Our 7-week experience has been punctuated by doing a study of the Bible’s David. The shepherd. The giant-slayer. The warrior and king. The psalmist and musician. The sinner. The repenter. One of the great stories behind David’s greatness was a life-changing, destiny-altering friendship of Togetherlinessism he shared with his best friend—a man named Jonathon. There would have been no David without Jonathon. (Read the scriptural accounts of the poet-king’s life and you’ll see what I mean.) I wonder if we’ll ever fully realize how important it is for churches and Christians to practice our religion of Togetherlinessism—even when it forces us to leave our assumptions, our routines, our normal ways of doing and seeing things, and our self-serving benefits for the larger values of discovering the real and living God and encouraging others to do the same. If we don’t model it, who will?
Pastor John Morlan is togetherly with his wife of 10 years, Julie, and three kids—Jack, Cameron, and Eliana. He has been attempting to practice Togetherlinessism at his church—Grace Fellowship—for over 15 years, now. Join him and them in this effort if you believe togetherliness is the heartbeat of God. Check Grace out on the web http://www.gracelife.cc/ –or e-mail him at john@GraceLife.cc.