By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher
NEWBERG — It’s generally accepted that two can accomplish more than one — and three even more.
While that thinking most often refers to people, it also applies to churches, according to leaders of three Willamette Valley congregations who have joined forces under a common name.
What was Newberg Christian Church, Tigard Christian Church and Adventure Christian Church in McMinnville are — as of this month — the three campuses of Northwest Christian Church. The merger of the three under the new name is to be officially instituted Labor Day Weekend.
“We weren’t looking for this, but we came to the conclusion that we’re better together,” said David Case, longtime senior minister at Newberg Christian, who will now be lead pastor of the new three-campus church.
The combined weekly attendance at the three sites starts off at about 1,600, with 1,200 in Newberg, 250 in McMinnville and 180 in Tigard.
Case came to Christ as a youth through the Newberg church and almost four decades ago joined the church’s staff as a youth pastor before eventually becoming senior pastor.
He has seen huge growth in his own congregation in recent years. Formerly a typical congregation of about 200, the Newberg church at 2315 Villa Road now offers several weekly services that see the 1,200 total gathering.
Part of that growth came by absorbing the remaining congregation of West Hills Christian Church in Portland, which had seen dwindling attendance over time and eventually closed. The West Hills building is now for sale.
But a larger reason for that growth, Case believes, is the Newberg church’s strong and creative focus on the needs of local residents.
“We’re really intentional about being the hands and feet of Jesus — meeting physical, emotional and spiritual needs,” he said. Just one example is a Thursday night worship service that draws hundreds — many whose schedules might otherwise prevent them from attending the church’s Sat-urday or Sunday services.
Case was quick to add that his church is “not a perfect church by any means,” but he also acknowledged good things are happening there that have encouraged other churches to link up.
The concept of merging churches in different cities was observed locally a few years ago, Case said, when Willamette Christian in West Linn joined forces with Beaverton Christian.
“This is kind of a new phenomenon,” Case said.
Meanwhile, Adventure Christian Church, a 16-year-old congregation, about 18 months ago began discussions about a formal tie to Newberg. Pastor Eric Neilson had founded the McMinnville fellowship, which eventually moved into the former Community Christian Church building at 2831 N.E. Newby St. Merger of Adventure Christian with Newberg Christian took place last July.
At the same time, there had been off-and-on discussions between Newberg Christian and Tigard Christian about linking up. At one time a congregation of several hundred, the 60-year-old Tigard church at 13405 S.W. Hall Blvd. had experienced a decline in recent years. Last October those discussions resumed, and the merger with Tigard Christian became official in June.
Thus, in recent weeks efforts have been energetically pursued to bring the three churches into alignment. Remodeling has been taking place at all three locations, while much of the administrative work for all three is now headquartered at the New-berg site. Northwest Christian now has a single elder board including representatives from all three cities.
Through video technology as well as whatever in-person contacts his schedule allows, Case will be the primary teaching pastor for Northwest Christian, but the two smaller churches also each have designated campus pastors.
For Tigard, that will be Wilson Parrish, who most recently was pastor of a church plant in Sherwood and who also is a chaplain for the Sherwood police.
For McMinnville, a new local pastor will soon be hired because Neilson will in 2020 do a new church plant in Twin Falls, Idaho.
To ensure that the needs of each local congregation are met, each will have designated “campus shepherds” to provide a caring touch.
Case said all this growth and activity is challenging right now but also exciting because it seems to be in God’s timetable. He said it would have been pretty difficult to tackle 10 years ago, but the resources and people are in place to make it work.
“I’m keeping my eyes on Jesus,” he said.
Case did not rule out the possibility of additional churches coming under the umbrella of Northwest Christian Church over time. There is the potential for such expansion in the future, but it would only occur both prayerfully and carefully, Case emphasized.
For more information, go to the combined church’s new website at www.mynw.cc