As we gear up for Partnership Class here at Summit, I had the opportunity to sit down with the three men who faithfully lead the congregations at the Herndon, Lake Mary, and Waterford campuses--Garry Abbott, O.J. Aldrich, and Sam Arocho. We spent some time talking about what it means to be a partner, what going all in can look like, and gently teasing each other's phraseology.
WHAT IS A SUMMIT PARTNER?
Garry: I would say- well, there’s a nerdy answer and there’s a normal person answer. The normal person answer is-
Sam: (laughs) That wouldn’t come from you, though. You’d give us the nerdy answer.
Garry: Right, but I’m going to do my best to answer and then you guys-
O.J.: We’ll colloquialize that for you.
Garry: Exactly. Very often in churches, the traditional language for someone who aligns themselves with a specific congregation is a member. And there’s a very Biblical precedent for that in 1 Corinthians 12. It says that we are one body and Christ is the head and each member plays a part. That language is very good, but in our culture, member has a certain connotation. So, a very akin to that is partner. Partner invokes something that says "I am aligning myself with this in a way that I will work to see it come to life".
O.J.: It’s someone who is all in. They’re the people that are with you and for you and are living out God’s plan at each campus and for Summit as a whole.
Sam: That "all in" designation is something that we look for in our partners. The ones who are passionate about the vision and want to see it lived out.
WHY DOES BECOMING A PARTNER MATTER?
Sam: There’s something about partnership-- about becoming invested and feeling like you belong and that you’re a part of something-- you free yourself more to be used by God in a community. Everyone walks into church from a different place—and for those who need to show up and sit in the back for a while, that's okay. But by going all in and becoming a partner, you free yourself to become a part of a family. God uses that family and wants to use you as part of that family.
Garry: There are these types of distinctions in the Scriptures as well. You oftentimes see the Gospel writers saying “the crowd” as one group of people and then “Jesus’ followers" or "disciples" as a different group. Rarely in the Scriptures do you see "the crowd" being a negative connotation, but there’s something special with that group that most closely followed Jesus. There’s a little bit of that to partnership too. When you move closer to the center of what God is doing in a community, you get a front row seat to things that maybe you don’t get access to as part of the crowd.
O.J.: Becoming a partner oftentimes is rest for a weary soul. The peace that can come by just saying "I'm in"—it’s a gift for people to be able to rest in that and be able to fully give themselves over to what God is doing. When you commit to a group of flawed humans that are trying to live out God’s plan, you can give fully of yourself and breathe. I just see so many people that spend so much time wrapped up worrying “Is my job the right job? Is my church the right church? Is my life the right life? Am I doing all the right things?” Well, what you’re doing right now God can use. So just settle in.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO BECOME A PARTNER?
Garry: I would say it answers a really important question--"am I excited about what this group of people is pursuing?" Partnership Class allows you to hear about what we believe. You get to hear about the vision that we’ll pursue and how that vision is lived out in ministry environments, and at the end of the night, you get to hear about what we’ll promise to do. Which is pray for you like crazy. Not let you easily wreck your life. And do everything we can to help you get clarity about where your specific gifting could be lived out in the context of community here. So at the end of the night, you’ll be able to answer the question "am I excited about this?"
Sam: There’s something about becoming a partner that just changes everything about the community. If I could talk to somebody who was just coming here, regardless of their situation, I would tell them to take steps toward this. Move towards being committed to a body of believers that are on mission together. Take steps toward that. It may be that coming to Partnership Class is the next step, but seek God where He would want you to pour in. If God is calling you here, this is where He’s going to grow you.
O.J.: I like that idea of it being a step. I think sometimes we talk about it like giving your whole life away for all of time and for everything. And that may be the wrong way in some ways to communicate it.
Garry: Right, with as much clarity as you have for as long as you have that clarity...
O.J.: For today, in this season, be where God wants to use you. Take this step and dig in.
Sam: Because it does change the way you serve, it does change the way you walk into Summit on a Sunday.
O.J.: From “that place” to “my place”. From “that church” to “my church”.
If you consider Summit your church home and are not yet a partner, we hope you'll consider attending Partnership Class. Taking this class does not automatically make you a partner; it is intended to give each attendee the necessary information to prayerfully make that decision. Join us for Partnership Class at the Waterford campus on Thursday, September 22nd at 7 p.m.! To register please click here.
Katie Schmidt is the Content Coordinator at Summit Church, which means that pretty much anything you can read at Summit, she either wrote, edited, or coordinated. If you would like to get in touch with her to ask her a question, or to bum her out and let her know that you found a typo somewhere, email her firstname.lastname@example.org.