Sharing space isn’t always easy—but one congregation finds that working through the challenges is more than worth it.
[Chris DeBlaay (center) poses with (from left) Rodrigo Cano, pastor of Alas Conexion, and Yakuv Gurung, pastor of Nepali-Speaking Community Church. The three lead separate congregations within the same church building in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photo by Nik DeGraaf.]
Eleven years ago an invitation went out to our classis: an established church was opening its doors, willing to let a new plant use their building to get started. That invitation from New Life Reformed Church set in motion a decade of ministry for our church, the Branch, and has taught us an invaluable principle: mission is furthered when churches choose to partner together and share space.
That said, let’s cut right to it: Sharing space is not always easy. (Ask any roommate or spouse.) Lights get left on. Conflicts arise in scheduling. Disagreements occur over paint color. That’s why a posture of humility and a willingness to make sacrifices are absolutely needed. But in these partnerships, we have found so much blessing. In our first few years as a church we received the enormous gift of affordable space. New Life, in turn, found joy and purpose in seeing young families reached and lives changed. Now, as we share space with Alas Conexion (an 18-month-old Hispanic plant) and Nepali-Speaking Community Church (a congregation of Nepali refugees living in West Michigan), we find that we are a blessing to each other. We pray and worship together, we share the cost of the building, we pitch in on projects, and we offer each other resources.
Make no mistake—we are different congregations with very different strategies, programs, and cultures. But for us, that’s exactly the point. We believe that it is in these differences that we are able to better understand and be the body of Christ, which allows us to better fulfill the unique callings God has given to each church.
Sharing space isn’t always easy. There’s no reason to sugarcoat it. But working through the challenges has been more than worth it. There’s joy in seeing each other’s congregations grow, freedom in not caring for a building alone, encouragement in having partners to share struggles with, and hope in knowing we are part of something much larger and more beautiful than our congregation.
Eleven years ago my life was changed by locking arms with people who were obedient to God’s call. May we all be obedient to the ways we can link together for the sake of God’s mission to the world.
Chris DeBlaay is the pastor at the Branch (RCA) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Platform” gives RCA members a chance to share their opinions.