Nobody wants to stand alone. We all long to be a part of something bigger than ourselves—we want the comfort that only comes from belonging. And yet, for many church planters, aloneness is a defining characteristic. Those who plant independent churches are free from the usual politicking that can consume denominational life. They are free, but they are lonely! There is no brotherhood to lean on or learn from. Independence is liberating, but it can also be very isolating.
Our church, Fellowship Bible Church of Jackson, Tennessee is an independent church. We are not beholden to any denominational body and are free to proceed as we choose. And yet we are not isolated—not in the slightest! We are active participants in a network of other Fellowship churches that span the globe. From the hot sands of Dubai to the busy streets of LA, there are approximately fifty churches that are members of the Fellowship Association. The association has no headquarters, no elected officers, and no dues—it is not a denomination. It is a network of like-minded churches that share experiences and encouragement with one another. We are extended family.
This weekend I was privileged to travel to our sister church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Fellowship Raleigh is led by my friend, Matt Schoolfield. Matt is a great guy and a good leader. He has persisted through the difficulties of starting a new ministry and is now beginning to see fruit. And what fruit it is! During Sunday’s service, the first two elders of Fellowship Raleigh were ordained. It was my privilege to preach and then participate in the ordination process. It was an awesome time, and I left charged up to see God at work in a sister church.
I love our place in the family—we are an independent church that is connected, not isolated. We are a unique body that belongs to a large, diverse family. Our sister churches are all very different. Some are urban; others are situated in rural communities. There are white-collar, blue-collar and no-collar churches in the association. We are all very different, but we share two essentials that bind us together. We are one in the gospel, and united in our determination to see it spread.
I am so grateful that God chose to place me, and we, in this community of churches. Sure, it’s full of wayward and wounded believers—but that’s why we fit so well in their company. We are like them, we are with them, it’s all in the family.
You can find a list of churches in our association at fellowshipassociates.org/about/alumni/