By Jon Donohue
125 years ago, the Christian and Missionary Alliance was founded with the idea that individual churches could do more for the Kingdom of God together than we could ever do separate. The word “alliance” speaks to the heart of this vision. Over the course of our history, that has played out well for the C&MA. Churches have come together to plant other local churches. They have come together to send missionaries overseas, or to financially support a work in a far-off corner of the world to bring the good news to those in darkness. Because of the effectiveness of these partnerships, hundreds of churches have been planted in the United States, and thousands have been planted overseas through the partnerships of the C&MA.
The vision for partnering with other local churches continues to be alive and well within the heart of the Alliance. It is with that same spirit, rooted in a rich history and vision, that East Hills and The Grove have begun to explore a new partnership. A number of years ago, Alliance pastors from churches in the Portland and Vancouver area got together and said, “Let’s share life and ministry together. And with that, let’s share a common vision for planting churches and reaching the world with the gospel.” And through that initial interaction, the Portland Metro Network (from here referred to as the PMN) was born. Their mission remains three-fold: To provide relational care for pastors, to partner in planting churches locally, and to invest together in international partnerships.
In many ways, the PMN is the prototype of a vision the Alliance Northwest field office has for all Alliance churches in the Pacific Northwest. Knowing that partnerships provide community and care for pastoral leaders, and knowing that we can do more together than we can ever do separately, the vision is that all Alliance churches will one day find a place in a regional network. After a few discussions with our field director Randy Shaw, we embraced the value of investing in just such a partnership. And since the natural geographic and cultural pull of our community is south to the Portland and Vancouver areas, Pastor Nick and I have recently begun to lean in and explore a partnership with the PMN.
In early February Nick and I took part in a quarterly 24-hour retreat with about twelve other PMN pastors. When the first thing we did was play three hours of paintball, I knew this was not your typical pastors gathering. I learned that, somehow, nothing brings pastors together quite like shooting at each other from across a muddy field. It provided great fun, but also a sense of comradery built around a shared experience.
From that we continued to dive deeper into community with one another through shared meals, worship, open sharing about life and ministry, devotionals, and a discussion about local church planting and international partnerships. What we discovered was a sense of unity and focus that is both unique and effective. As a network, the PMN earmarked a few thousand dollars to help purchase a new (to them) sound system for the new Portland church plant Life Bridge. They also discussed financial and other means of support for their international partners in Kosovo. Kosovo is the next door neighbor of our current partners in Bosnia, so this would be a natural expansion of our focus and vision for reaching the Balkans for Christ.
With their investments in local church planting and international work, there is naturally a financial dimension to being involved with a network like the PMN. Without finances, support for local and international partnerships and planting efforts can only go so far. So we see great value to investing in these efforts with the PMN to launch new churches into regions like Battleground or Woodland, but what the financial side of this partnership would specifically look like is still a topic the elders are prayerfully considering.
Being part of a network like the PMN would provide us an opportunity to partner in various church planting and missional opportunities “out there”, but it would also provide a natural avenue for PMN churches to invest in what God is doing in our own community. As EHA and The Grove continue to advance the vision of planting campuses in Cowlitz County and nearby communities, PMN churches would then partner with us in that process by providing prayer, resources, and even financial support.
Please pray with us for the Lord’s clear leading as we lean into a partnership with the Portland Metro Network. Please also pray that the Lord continues to expand our vision for partnership…that this vision advanced by the Alliance over the past 125 years would grow and flourish throughout all our Alliance NW churches. As it does, I have no doubt that God will use us to expand Christ’s Kingdom work in both regional and global contexts.
To Him be the glory!