By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
SYKESVILLE, Md.—It’s a church partnership made in heaven—the inner city New Christian Bible Church in northwest Baltimore and the suburban Friendship Church in Sykesville, Md.
The partnership began three years ago through a pre-Embrace Baltimore effort to partner city churches with suburban churches for greater impact for the kingdom.
At a retreat sponsored by the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) at Skycroft Conference Center, BCM/D Executive Director David Lee shared his vision for connecting churches together to prepare the way for a Strategic Focus City effort by the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
Friendship Church’s senior pastor, Mark Massey, heard Lee’s vision and came back to his church “really enthused,” shared John Hevey, associate pastor at Friendship Church.
At the time, John Faris, former director of finance at the BCM/D and a member at Friendship, shared about potential church partners with Friendship Church leaders.
They discovered that New Christian Bible Church was fairly close to them. It was also the neighborhood where Hevey grew up.
After mutual interviews, both churches agreed to a three-year covenant, committing to assist each other as the Lord led them. Their first effort together was to paint Pimlico Elementary School, an inner city school in much need of repair.
Since that time, the two churches have ministered alongside each other at Baltimore’s Helping Up Mission (a residential recovery center for men in Baltimore) and at a downtown Baltimore homeless shelter (formerly called Oasis) where they have led Bible studies and otherwise served.
Friendship helped reconstruct New Christian Bible Church’s fellowship hall, enlarging the space to meet their growing need.
Friendship also assisted New Christian Bible Church in Upward Sports Camps, and other outreach events through Embrace Baltimore. The two church’s choirs have sung in each other’s churches; the pastors have swapped pulpits; and the two congregations have enjoyed church picnics together.
They have even participated in mission trips together in Mississippi, where they have done hurricane relief work, and in Puebla, Mexico. In February, Hardnett will travel with Massey to Puebla to work with a Mexican church-planting pastor.
“It’s a great opportunity for three long-term church planters to talk shop,” Hevey said.
On a personal level, the pastors and their wives have enjoyed fellowship together, encouraging each other as leaders in the churches.
“We meet regularly to ask questions and encourage each other,” explained Hevey, who has played golf with Hardnett, using that time to learn about each other’s churches and families.
“We have received a lot of encouragement and a lot of resources from our partnership with Friendship Church,” said Steve Hardnett, senior pastor of New Christian Bible Church.
“Our partnership has allowed us to expand further than we would have ever on our own. We’re thankful for our friendship,” he added.
Hardnett says he feels “right at home” whenever he visits Friendship’s church campus. “They feel like family,” he said.
Though they have officially completed their partnership, both churches can’t imagine not being partners. They have agreed to continue, expectant that God will do greater things in their midst.
“Our partnership has given us some great friends,” shared Hevey. “It’s not just about the work. It’s about the relationships that we develop when we work together.”