As many of you know, the elders at Park Church have been in an ongoing conversation with Monmouth Church of Christ (MCC) about the possibility of a future together. For the past several years, MCC has prayerfully wrestled with the question of what’s next for them. Throughout this process, they engaged in exploratory conversations with several churches, including us. Over time, and through much prayerful dialogue with us, their leadership discerned that the best thing for the sake of God’s Kingdom in Monmouth County would be to pursue a future with us. Toward this end, over the past few months, our two churches have been intentionally “sharing space” together (MCC Christmas luncheon, Evensong, Women’s Brunch, Community Group involvement). In addition, the leadership from these two churches have continued to meet together for prayer, dialogue and discernment.
Last Sunday the members of MCC held a congregational vote to decide whether or not they would begin the process of dissolving as a church and donating their property and building to Park Church. This vote came with an understanding that Park Church would joyfully welcome anyone and everyone who chooses to join, though that decision would ultimately be up to each individual.
Last Sunday the vote passed.
Since hearing this news and reflecting more on the whole process,
I find myself feeling overwhelmingly humbled and hopeful.
It’s humbling to be on the receiving end of such an extravagant gift, or I should say gifts. This property and building comprise a gift to be sure. One that will ensure exciting opportunities for God’s mission in Monmouth County. But infinitely more valuable than property is the gift of a people who are sacrificially giving more than we know and considering joining our church, essentially entrusting us with their spiritual well-being. This is humbling. And yet, I am also deeply hopeful for reasons which shall be made clear below.
Naturally this news gives rise to many questions, which is why within the next few weeks an extended, written FAQs will be made available and posted to Park’s blog.
However, there are a few questions worth addressing right now.
Does this mean relocation for Park Church?
Yes, this likely means an eventual relocation from 31 Park Rd. to 312 Hance Ave. However, it’s unlikely a move would happen this year. There are many steps that would need to be taken before a physical move, including a building assessment followed by renovations that would need to be done so that the space meets our needs.
How can we best welcome, embrace, and create space for the people of MCC?
More than any other, this question is heavy on my heart. And I hope it’s heavy on yours as well. It should be stated that this is not a story about how we are getting a “free building.” This is a story about how a church, after many faithful years and a difficult discernment process, has decided to lay down their congregational “life” for the sake of the gospel in Monmouth County. How do we welcome such a people? How do we honor their story? How do we create space and recognize that these are people with gifts to contribute, wisdom to offer, faith to learn from?
There’s much to be said here, but one simple thing each of us can do is learn their story. As opportunities present themselves, we can ask questions like When did you join MCC? What are some of your most meaningful memories there? How has God uniquely shaped you because of your experience at MCC? Learning their story is obviously just a start, but it’s a good start. Please be thinking and praying about ways to be welcoming.
Why are we moving forward with this process?
In some ways, this is perhaps the most important question. For some, the answer is as simple as, “Because when someone offers you a large property and building for free, you take it.” And while I understand this kind of common-sense response, there’s more to it for us.
Simply put, we the elders of Park Church believe that God is in this.
In the words of the elders of the Jerusalem church in Acts 15, “it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us” to move forward. And while there is no singular reason why we believe God is in this, there are many reasons which together have kept us moving forward. Here are some:
This has been a discernment process that, well before I moved here, has been bathed in prayer. MCC’s leaders and Park’s leaders have been consistently seeking God’s will and direction throughout every stage of this process. It may not always be how or when we prefer, but the reality is that God works through prayer.
This conversation has been going on for over a year. At no point has this process been rushed or forced. Our leaders and MCC’s leaders have displayed tremendous patience, trusting that, if this is of God, it’ll come together in his timing.
We (Park elders) did not initiate nor have we been the drivers of this conversation. At no point have we thought of this as a “deal to close” or “something to win.” To the contrary, our posture has been one of prayerful and patient engagement. If there was going to be a future between Park Church and MCC, it would first and foremost be because this is God’s agenda, not ours.
- Practical factors
You may not be aware, but there are practical reasons for moving to a larger space. We are currently at (or nearing) capacity for parking, kids classrooms, and church-wide events. A move to MCC’s property and building would afford adequate space for these things while providing more space to grow and dream about what God might want to do in the future. Being in a residential neighborhood would also present new opportunities to discern how to best love our neighbors. Moving to a larger space makes practical sense.
- The faith and conviction of MCC leadership
One of the most humbling and moving experiences for us as Park’s elders has been to observe the way MCC’s elders have displayed such courageous and selfless faith. These are godly, prayerful individuals who have sought wisdom from the Lord. And while no one is infallible, when individuals like this say, “We believe this is the best path forward,” I’m inclined to listen.
- And finally, this story reflects the gospel and gives God glory
Following in the pattern of our crucified and risen Lord, the members of MCC have selflessly laid down their personal preferences, individual interests, and congregational life for the sake of God’s kingdom purposes in Monmouth County. In a culture so shaped by the free market, which is fueled by competition, the decision MCC has made, under the leadership of their elders and lead pastor, makes no sense to a watching world. It’s a temptation for every church to slip into a “competition” mindset. But MCC’s leadership, affirmed by the congregational vote, has displayed a counter-cultural kingdom mindset. There’s a lot we can learn from them. I certainly have. It should not surprise us that God wants to work in ways that display the gospel and bring him glory.
I know this is a lot to process. It has been for the elders and me as well. And while there are many questions yet to be answered, we are excited to move forward. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to hear from you. And as always, please continue praying.
Grace and Peace,