There is something new - and unusual - going on at Mount Olive Baptist Church. It's called a Kingdom Partnership. It is focused on what the church needs to do to remain relevant in today's society and its goal is to help the struggling community around it.
"The majority of churches that were full 20 years ago are half full or less today. Most are having church to do two things - pay the bills and pay the pastor's salary," said the Rev. Kenneth Paramore, pastor of Christ Centered Church. "Some pastors would rather preach to 20 people and have their names on the (church) sign rather than do real ministry. We can either come together or die a slow death."
Paramore and the Rev. William Bunton, pastor of Mount Olive, are hoping to reverse the trend. Their congregations (one Baptist, the other nondenominational) have been worshipping together since June 12. "It is so evident in the worship that what we're doing is really a 'God thing.' It is divinely mystical. It is exciting to go from having the church half-full to overflowing," Bunton said. "Pastor Paramore and I are partners. We're in this together. That is something that some people have difficulty understanding because pastors tend to be competitors or adversaries. And we tend to have strong egos and we are territorial."
"Black churches are too proud to admit it when they're struggling. We need to learn to swallow our pride and do what's best for God's kingdom," Jones said. "We've taken too much of an ownership role, thinking that this is my church, these are my pews. The truth is we are all one family. It is absolutely a biblical standard to come together."
Paramore and Bunton agree that joining churches together for ministry is not a new concept. They point to other faith groups, including the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church and the Lutheran Church, as examples of entities that have formed mergers and collaborations to address declining enrollment and finances in a way that ensures a vibrant ministry.
"I counted 139 black churches in Akron. The statistics show that about 4,000 inner-city churches in America close each year and that most don't attract four new converts annually," Paramore said. "We have to ask ourselves, 'What are we doing sitting in these churches that are half full?' and 'Why are we trying to build our own little kingdoms instead of building the kingdom of God?'