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Missional Church Merger | Coram Deo & Core Community

On September 25, 2011, two Acts 29 churches, Coram Deo Church and Core Community Church, merged together. These two churches, which have been pacesetters in the work of urban, missional church planting in the Midwest, joined forces as one church. Below is their story or you can watch the video they made, describing how they came to merger together and talking about the implications of doing so.

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by Bob Thune

Core Community Church was founded by Ethan Burmeister in the fall of 2000. It was only the fourth church to join the Acts 29 Network. Ethan was, in many ways, a man ahead of his time. Ideas like “missional church” were not yet commonplace. Conversations about the intersection of missiology and ecclesiology were just beginning – in places like Seattle and London and Miami. Not Omaha. God faithfully used Ethan to pioneer a vital urban church community that was both culturally hip and theologically robust.

Five years later, God called me to plant the Coram Deo Church Community. I learned quickly that church planting is a lonely and often painful endeavor. As I looked around the city for others to learn from, Ethan stood head and shoulders above the rest. He was the only leader in whom I sensed a Spirit-led calling to church planting. It seemed like every other “church planter” was a Bible college grad looking for a paycheck or a wounded guy still trying to earn the affection of his absent father. Ethan was a man among boys, and he told it to me straight. He saved me from a lot of bad decisions and probably deserves credit for more than a few good ones. In the summer of 2006, he urged us to join the Acts 29 Network, connecting Coram Deo to a thriving nexus of church-planting wisdom and affinity.

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“Uniting forces as one church seems a small and simple step toward unity and greater gospel momentum in the city.”

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Over the past six years, God has built a tremendous synergy between Core and Coram Deo. We have coached each other, resourced each other, helped each other. We’ve built a rich web of relational connections. We’ve borrowed each other’s language and trained each other’s leaders and celebrated each other’s milestones. All of this has culminated recently in a series of conversations about merging our two churches into one. Because of our common commitment to historic Reformed theology, complementarian relationships, and missional church planting, we are already closer in chemistry and camaraderie than any other two churches in Omaha.

Uniting forces as one church seems a small and simple step toward unity and greater gospel momentum in the city. The elders of both churches unanimously sense the hand of God orchestrating this merger. God has confirmed our discernment over and over again through prayer, counsel, Scripture, community, and even Spirit-directed dreams and visions. In some sense, this merger is merely the next step in a work that God has been doing for over ten years. Core Community Church was planted with a vision to “renew all of Omaha through a movement of the gospel.” Coram Deo Church Community was planted with a vision to “lead a movement of church planting and gospel renewal throughout our city and region.” Notice the centrality of the word movement in both vision statements.

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“Neither church is content to merely exist. Both long to be part of something greater in our city – something akin to what Jesus taught us to pray: ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, [in Omaha] as it is in heaven.'”

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Neither church is content to merely exist. Both long to be part of something greater in our city – something akin to what Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, [in Omaha] as it is in heaven.” These two churches will become one. Core Community Church as an entity will cease to exist. Its people and leaders will fold into Coram Deo Church to continue to live out the mission of God in our city. It is our firm conviction that we will be more fruitful and effective together than we could be separately.

For the people within both churches, the fall of 2011 will be a season of immense change. Personal adjustments, relational adjustments, and cultural adjustments will be required. This merger will immediately move Coram Deo into a “size dynamic” that threatens to outpace its current systems and structures. We ask for patience, grace, and humility on the part of all.

For those outside of both churches, we pray that this merger will show forth the glory of God in the gospel of his Son. The God who created all things (Acts 17:24) is in Christ reconciling all things to himself (Colossians 1:20). This reconciliation – this renewal – will not be spiritualized or confined to the individual “private life” of the soul. The gospel of Jesus Christ transforms people and leaders – and as a result, it changes the visible institutions and organizations which they lead. A greater sense of unity, harmony, and submission to Christ is the natural result of the renewing, transforming power of the gospel (Colossians 1:6).

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Over the last ten years, Acts 29 has emerged from a small band of brothers to almost 300 churches in the United States and networks of churches in multiple countries. Scott Thomas serves as president and director of the network, which focuses on the gospel and advancing the mission of Jesus through obediently planting church-planting churches. Founders and contributors to the Acts 29 movement include Mars Hill teaching pastor Mark Driscoll and lead pastor of The Village Church Matt Chandler.