Tonight we went to a Pine Car Derby at a neighboring church. The churches in Granite Falls do something wonderful that is new to me in all our 22 years of attending churches: they work together, they interact, they support one another, they love each other's congregations, they fellowship together, they show the unity of Christ between congregations. The pastors feel perfectly comfortable with this.
In fact, they're going to work together to spread a compiled information sheet about all the churches to the residents in the area. Volunteer members from each congregation will participate, and it's not to compete but to collaborate.
I talked to one of the women, I think her name was Charlotte, from this church tonight. She was thinking aloud about other ideas that she thought her church might plan for the summer: fellowship gatherings by bonfires outside in the summer; a potluck and hymn-sing (I've heard of them, never seen one)...then I talked with another woman, a grandmother whose name I think was Diane (maybe not). She was just bubbling over with ideas for children's get-togethers, including an upcoming one that was actually in the works to happen in a couple of weeks with pizza and games. As we went out to the parking lot along with her husband, he was talking about how he'd like to have an overnighter by a bonfire for the kids in the summer, or something. You could tell they were all just bubbling with ideas for community fellowship, and it didn't seem that they'd been told to think up ideas, that they had been brainstorming and comparing notes, from anything I could tell.
Our church had a New Years' Eve party with dodge-ball in our sanctuary. People from other churches and from the English-as-a-Second-Language classes came. Our pastor gets together with pastors from the other churches for fellowship breakfasts, and the Community Bible Church congregation and ours get together for a number of gatherings during the year; in fact the pastors and two other congregation members are heading out on a missions trip to a very far and remote area (with no particular tourist appeal) within the month.
So what gives these churches freedom to fellowship between themselves when the churches I've attended in the past would never have done such things? I think it is the pastors' contentment with the size of their congregations. They aren't striving to be huge; they trust God in His direction of people to their church or others as He will. They are aware that knowing their whole congregation is a huge plus. They aren't afraid that they'll lose their congregation to another church, and they aren't intending to draw people from another church's congregation.
Tonight's Pine Car Derby was a very sweet and simple interaction between the two church families; it wasn't costly or ornate. It isn't that everyone showed up, but it was a great opportunity for fellowship. I got to talk with people from our church and theirs, and I think the unity in Christ had to be a blessing not only for those who visibly attended, but for Christ Himself.