Church mergers topic of book

Published 7:53 pm Saturday, August 6, 2016

Suffolk native Greg Johnson realized there wasn’t a lot of printed material on church mergers when his church was going through one several years ago.

So, the pastor decided to write a book about them. He will be in Suffolk on Aug. 21, selling and signing books after the morning worship service at Greater First Baptist Church Orlando, 600 Factory St.

Johnson graduated from Old Dominion University with the Rev. Moses Ware, the senior pastor at Greater First Baptist Church Orlando.

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Johnson was licensed in 1997 at St. Timothy Baptist Church in Suffolk. He went on to obtain a Master of Divinity from Virginia Union University and a Doctorate of Ministry from Northeastern Seminary.

He decided to write his book, “Merging with Grace: A Healthy Transformation,” after the church he was leading during his doctorate work went through a merger.

“That was part of my doctoral project, helping the church through the transition,” he said. “We found a lot of challenges in the process, and there wasn’t a whole lot of material published that would help churches to merge.”

Johnson said the challenges his church encountered had to do with change.

“Everything changed, from the style of worship to the place of worship,” he said. “For a lot of people, church is a very emotional place, so the change challenged people emotionally.”

Johnson said the reasons for a church merger also affect the congregation.

“There are a lot of studies that show churches that enter into mergers for survival will not work,” Johnson said. “Churches that are merging from the perspective of building the kingdom have a better chance of survival. The focus still has to be on ministry and doing kingdom work.”

Johnson said his book will be helpful to any congregation studying its health, not only those looking to merge.

“The book talks about what a healthy church looks like,” he said. “A church is a system of people that come from families, so people bring to this church that they are a part of attitudes, emotions, baggage — all that stuff comes with people when they enter into congregational life. They bring to that congregation what they have carried from their culture.”

The book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. There will be copies for sale at the book signing.