By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
KEYSER, W.Va.—They may interpret the Bible differently and perhaps vary in their worship, but churches in Keyser, W.Va., are setting divisions aside, breaking down denominational walls and uniting in their commitments to share the Gospel of Jesus.
Jody Bean, pastor of First Church Keyser, regularly meets with other pastors and church leaders for prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and for planning special events. John Johnson, pastor of Keyser Assembly of God, started the group about five years ago. Since that time, it has expanded and now includes Assembly of God, Baptist, Methodist and non-denominational churches.
Pastor Jason Whitlock, who is a missionary for Youth With A Mission (YWAM), also participates and Bean said YWAM has been a huge blessing, bringing in teams from all over the world to pray for the city and for the body of Christ. The partnership of pastors has blossomed, growing in friendship and trust. The unity of churches is making such a difference in their neighborhood that the community is taking notice.
Schools that were not friendly to the individual churches began accepting the ministerium and are much more cooperative. They even call the pastors for help during times of crisis.
“They want us to be involved. It’s been amazing what God has done,” Bean said.
Bands that play for the ministerium-sponsored events marvel at how well the group works together. In fact, one band lowered their price in an affirmation of that unity.
When the ministerium-sponsored author and international speaker Bobby Petrocelli came as a special speaker, Petrocelli was amazed at the churches’ cooperation. “He said, ‘you don’t know what you have here. I’ve never seen churches work together like you do. I travel the world and I’ve never seen this before,’” Bean said.
The combined churches have several large annual events. They hid about 5,000 Easter eggs in a local park and invited the community. A costumed storyteller sat in big chair and used the eggs to tell the Easter story to the children as parents looked on.
“It’s a simple way to get the Word of God out to the community. Most of those who come are unchurched,” Bean said.
Last summer the churches united to do a weekend community call to repentance called “Return Unto Me.” The churches erected a big tent and for three days they had music, children’s events, preaching and prayer. About a dozen churches were represented.
Unity among churches is unique enough to warrant attention from secular newspapers. Last year a Keyser community newspaper—“Mineral Daily News Tribune” featured the call to repentance and the partnership.
“We all want to see God move,” Bean said. “We’re like-minded. We’ve had no conflicts. I’m very Baptist. But just because a pastor is of a different denomination doesn’t mean we can’t work together.”
The churches will unite on May 6 on the local courthouse lawn to observe the National Day of Prayer. Music groups from the churches will lead in worship, one pastor from the group will share a short message and all of the ministers will take turns praying, leading the people in joining their praises and petitions together as a body of believers to honor God.