by Tony Lynn
PLYMOUTH, MI – “Plays well with others,” marked with an “S,” made my parents smile in 1964. The “S” stood for “Satisfactory.” The report card, from my kindergarten teacher, meant that with other classmates I shared, took turns, and helped others in the classroom. My newly expanded community for the next years of my life was Stalker Elementary School in Flint.
I easily recall those sweet years of expanded relationships and new rules.
White milk and chocolate milk crates were poised on angles so that we could help ourselves to the tiny half-pint cartons. The aroma of Dutch windmill cookies is still fresh in my mind. Nap times meant each child retrieved his or her own colorful woven rag-rug to rest on the cool tile floor, while the teacher relaxed at her desk yet watching us and gently hushing us when we whispered to one another. In addition to eating and sleeping, I did learn some things.
Today, I enjoy working with adults for whom I would mark an “S” when it comes to “plays well with others.” I like over-achieving kindergarten-adults. Two such outstanding, generous pastors are Matt Carter of Cedar Street Church in Holt and Ed Emmerling of Westside Baptist Church in Flushing. These men led their established churches to share their structures, resources, and energy to benefit two new church plants in Michigan.
Matt Carter and Cedar Street Church “played well” with The Commons Church in East Lansing which is led by church planter and pastor, Austin Wadlow. The Commons Church is only seventeen months old. During these past COVID months, when restrictions hindered The Commons Church from meeting in-person, it was Cedar Street Church who flung their doors wide-open to The Commons Church. When Carter was thanked for assisting Wadlow, Carter replied, “No thanks necessary. We love helping the new church. It’s nothing more than what we’re called to do. Our congregation wants to be on mission with God.”
Recent breaking news is that The Commons has been gifted a free, 5-acre piece of property with a 20,000 square foot building because a smaller congregation wants to unite with the mission of The Commons Church. Matt Carter and Cedar Street Church helped The Commons Church continue their momentum of praying, gathering and worshiping which led to a breakthrough in church planting.
Ed Emmerling and Westside Baptist Church “played well” with Union Flint Church in Flint Township which is led by church planter and pastor, Jason Loewen. Union Flint Church launched during February 2021. It’s a newborn church plant. The collaboration between Emmerling and Loewen is startling when you see that the established church is on the north side of the Flint River and the new church plant is on the south side of the river, minutes away from one another.
Some established pastors might see the church plant as a threat, but not so with Emmerling or Westside Church. Emmerling said, “I’ve reached a stage in my life where I don’t care who gets credit, I just want to see people saved.”
Westside Baptist Church gathers on Sundays while Union Flint Church gathers on Thursday evenings. The common facilities are shared while the outreach to the surrounding community is doubling due to the heroic partnership of two pastors and two congregations. The mutual respect and support between Emmerling and Loewen is evident to anyone who watches their interaction.
The background for the word “kindergarten” is interesting. It comes from the German language and literally means, “a children’s garden” or more precisely “a garden of children.” Can you see the beautiful picture those words create in the imagination? Diversity. Differing colors, heights, aromas, shapes, formations. Each one flowering or blooming at their correct time. Gardens of spiritual children can be similar. The pastors of these four churches are partners, and they are harmoniously tending to gardens of children for the Lord. Would you join me in praying that God will give us more kindergarten-adults who would receive an “S” when it comes to “plays well with others” on their report cards?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tony Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.