Windsor Park Baptist Senior Pastor Grant Harris initiated Sync a couple of years ago when he got North Shore Baptist church pastors together for lunch to discuss ways of working together. And he believes the idea of church autonomy is old fashioned thinking.
“The thing we’ve held on to so tightly over the years is our autonomy. But our society has changed. In the old days people would go to their local church because that’s where they lived. But now they can drive to other churches,” says Grant.
“We are close enough that our communities overlap but every church was doing their own thing and duplicating each other along the way. Personally I felt that was dumb. Also, smaller churches can’t offer the resources that we can, so how can they be part of us so we can make these things available to their congregations as well?”
Now if you drive to any of the four different Sync churches you will you will hear a sermon being preached on the same theme. But not the same sermon. Grant says he is not trying to force everyone into a single mega-church. It’s important for each church to retain the richness of diversity and style.
Albany Baptist is one of the more recent churches to join Sync and pastor Ryan Bond is enthusiastic about the concept.
“The idea is that we are increasing co operation and operating as one just as Jesus prayed we would be in the night before his death,” says Ryan.
“Sole or senior pastors from each church get together. Windsor Park and Northgate also have other pastors who come along. Themes or biblical books are planned in advance and the main theme for each week decided and ideas then tossed around. But each pastor writes their own sermon. There is no control aspect, what you say is up to you.”
Ryan says that rather than sitting in his office on his own to write a sermon, he can now listen to “all these people with all their fantastic ideas.”
The co-operation also goes beyond just the Sunday sermon. Small group studies are available for each week, and a reader at the start of each series. Children’s church is also now becoming aligned so the children are learning similar topics as the adults and there’s an at-home guide so parents can talk to their children at home about what’s going on.
The churches aim to choose topics that are applicable to the daily lives of their congregation members, and try to accommodate different learning styles.
“Whether a non-Christian, a new Christian or someone who has been one for 30 years, there will be events applicable to them to help them deepen their faith,” says Ryan.
Baptist Lead Conference
26-29 June | Hutt City Baptist
Hui 2016 (Baptist Assembly)
3-5 November | Dunedin City Baptist Church