Gateway Seminary is a national entity owned by the Southern Baptist Convention. Yet, because of our primary location since our founding almost 80 years ago, we are closely connected to state partners in California. Those partnerships are a profound asset as we work together to support each other and fulfill both our respective missions and the overarching mission of God.
Multi-decadal partnerships between ministry organizations that are owned by different denominational entities are somewhat rare. We share no legal ties and have no mandated responsibility to cooperate together. Yet, we do work together in multiple ways, contributing to each other’s individual effectiveness along with shared results that are much greater than our individual parts.
Our partners in California include the California Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist Foundation of California, and California Baptist University. The CSBC is a remarkable network of about 2000 churches from every major ethnic group and geographic part of the state. BFCal is a professional estate planning and church financial services ministry business that manages millions in assets. CBU is the finest Christian university in the country – having emerged from about 800 students 30 years ago to 13,000 students today with Division One athletics and fully-orbed academic programs in almost every discipline imaginable.
How do we maintain these partnerships? First, we speak well of each other in public and speak to each other about concerns in private. Second, we promote each other and use each other’s services as much as possible. Third, our leaders connect a few times a year at different meetings and at least one day each year for fellowship (with our spouses) and specific partner-related planning. Fourth, we share ideas and ways we can improve our work and help each other whenever we can – even when it might cost us time, energy, or effort. Finally, when we hit a rough patch, we work it out – convinced that messy cooperation is better than disruptive division.
One of the byproducts of these efforts is modeling Christian relationships and helping Baptists in California work better together. When church leaders see organizational leaders cooperating, including institutional cooperation, it encourages them to intensify their cooperative efforts. We are grateful for California partners and to be included in the California family of denominational entities working together to expand kingdom influence across our state and beyond.
Pastor Jon Varner shares what he learned developing a practice of combining his daily Bible reading and prayer.