Church Merger Is Recommended!

The Merger Exploration Team this past week unanimously recommended to Briarcliff Baptist Church and our church that we come together in a merger to form a new church! Our Leadership Team unanimously affirmed the recommendation, as did a similar body at Briarcliff, with a date for a vote set for Sunday, July 16, at the end of Morning Worship in both congregations. Each congregation must individually pass the recommendation by a 75% positive vote.

In the meantime, a Question and Answer document is available and is presented below. It is also available at each church facility, and a copy will be mailed to each member family. On Sunday, June 25, at 5 p.m., a Town Hall Meeting will be held in the Fellowship Hall for the purpose of discussing the potential merger and clarifying any questions.

Briarcliff/Clairmont Hills Merger Study Team
Questions and Answers

Why should there be a merger?
The main question we have focused upon during the time of exploration is this: “Could we be more effective for the Kingdom of God together than we can apart?” While we would all love to see two vibrant churches in the area, we have concluded that the answer to this question is a resounding “YES!” Both churches have for several years been utilizing facilities that are larger than current needs, and therefore, each is spending more of her resources on the facilities and not as much as desired on ministry to the community. A merged church has the possibility of bringing new vision and vitality along with the synergy of the two congregations coming together, which would bring added leadership and ministry opportunities. The sale of property can also provide resources that can help the new church start with the ability to meet some pressing needs of the community and the church.

Who is Clairmont Hills Baptist Church?
Clairmont Hills Baptist Church was formed in the Toco Hills area in 1954, meeting first in the W. D. Thompson School where the LA Fitness stands today. By 1956, the church had acquired property, built a first unit building, and constituted as a church. Over the years, hundreds have come to faith in Jesus and grown toward maturity through the ministry of the church. In her sixty years, the church has been led by five pastors, demonstrating a strong bond between pastor and people, and the church has always sought to be a community church.

Who is Briarcliff Baptist Church?
Briarcliff Baptist Church is a group of diverse believers who worship together near the corner of Briarcliff and Clairmont Roads. For the last 58 years, BBC has been a community church that has opened her doors to a growing and changing area in order to make an impact for the glory of God. Today, BBC is a lively and Spirit-filled congregation that loves God, loves others, and is intentional in making disciples.

What are some of the unique similarities between Briarcliff and Clairmont Hills Baptist Churches?
Our merger exploration began with team members sharing their stories of life and faith and by looking at the beliefs we share. Since our buildings are separated by a two-mile strip of Clairmont Road, we share a community that we both care about. More than that, we both have a real love for Jesus, a strong commitment to the Bible as God’s word, a desire to minister to the community around us, and an appreciation for ministry to the wide diversity of generations and ethnicities that make up our area. Both churches have approached small groups and worship in similar ways, and both are looking at new ways to minister to the current needs of the area.

What are the benefits of a merger?
The area inside the perimeter has been a challenge for most established churches of all kinds for the past thirty to forty years. As an illustration, in 1963, there were 131 Atlanta Metro Baptist Association churches located in the area that is now inside the perimeter. Of those, 39 still exist. The other 92 congregations either moved to another location outside the perimeter, joined another association, merged with another church, sold their property, gave the property to another church, or gave the property to the Atlanta Metro Baptist Association, or the Georgia Baptist Children's Home. During the last twelve years, thirteen churches have closed their doors. Most others have been in decline, including BBC and CHBC. During this time, of course, other churches have been planted. A benefit of a merger is that it involves more than simply trying to put two congregations together; instead, our desire is to start a new church with a fresh vision and committed to implementing a new strategy to reach our area for Christ. Forming a new church out of two will provide more resources for implementing the vision and strategy of the new church. We will have more workers that will be involved in outreach and ministry. More resources can be invested in ministry than in simply maintaining aging properties. While determining longer term property needs, one property can be sold with the resources allowing us to invest in ministries, strategic staffing, and refurbishing areas of the property chosen to be the initial home of the new church, making it a better tool to fulfill our vision and accomplish our mission. The community will experience a fresh vitality when they come to worship God. These are just some of the benefits of a merger.

What is going to change?
Everything! We are starting a new church with a fresh vision. We will not simply be two churches sharing one building. Our first few months will be spent becoming one church, learning and loving each other. So, in one sense, everything will change. In another sense, there will be familiarity, because we will be doing all the things that churches throughout history are called to do. We will preach the word of God. We will sing songs of praise. We will worship God together “in spirit and in truth.” Small groups—whether called Sunday School, Community Groups, or Life Groups—will be the key component for living the life of Christ together in study, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry. We will seek to do all that we do by focusing on our new vision statement: “Pursuing life in Christ together with passion and purpose.” This is what we will be about!

Who will be the pastor?
The pastor of the new church will be Paul Millarc of Briarcliff Baptist Church. Dr. Jim Haskell, the interim pastor of Clairmont Hills Baptist Church, will serve as a consultant for an indeterminate period of time at the discretion of the Merger Transition Team.

What will be the vision of the new church?
After much thought, prayer, and discussion, our exploration team has come up with the Vision Statement, “Pursuing life in Christ together with passion and purpose.” Each word in this statement is important and was carefully chosen based on biblical truth:
• Pursuing: Jesus told us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”
• Life in Christ: Jesus said that he came “that you might have life, and might have it more abundantly.” Jesus was sent that we might have eternal life. We do not simply pursue life; we are pursuing life in Christ!
• Together: We are told in Scripture that we belong to each other and are to gather together as the people of God.
• Passion: In the Great Commandments, we are told to love God with all of who we are and that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are to live passionate lives of love!
• Purpose: The Great Commission gives us one of our primary purposes as a church: to “make disciples of all nations.” We have a purpose, a mission!

What will be the name?
Journey Community Church was the name chosen, as it goes hand in hand with our vision, “Pursuing life in Christ together with passion and purpose.” (The church will be affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, and the Atlanta Metro Baptist Association.)

Where will we meet?
One of the most difficult of all questions was which facility would become the initial “home” for the new church. After much study and discussion, the Clairmont Hills facility was chosen. There are pros and cons for the use of either facility. Both facilities would provide useful ministry tools to help reach the community. Briarcliff has especially attractive worship and fellowship spaces. Why, then, was the Clairmont Hills facility chosen? For several reasons. A firm was hired by each church to assess both facilities. The report indicated either facility might be used, but the recommendation gave the nod to Clairmont Hills. It was noted by the team that the Clairmont Hills location was the better of the two for centrality and visibility. Clairmont Hills also has an elevator to provide easy access to most spaces. CHBC also has about 100 additional parking spaces. There are a variety of sizes of meeting areas as well. The cost of utilities for the past several years has been lower at CHBC.

Clairmont Hills does have an older chiller that needs to be replaced, one that will be a major expense. CHBC also has reserves that can pay for that new chiller.

Either facility would need some enhancements and repairs to maximize the use and make it a better tool for ministry. The sale of one property will allow some funds for such work while reserving much of it for ministry use. It is possible that the Briarcliff facility might be used for a period of time while some work is being done on the Clairmont Hills facility.

Our team agreed that either facility could be used. We also strongly uphold the idea that a church is the people, not the facility.

How will this new church grow when our individual churches are not growing?
That’s a great question! We believe we will be more effective for the kingdom of God together. Joining our two unique yet similar congregations will give us a synergy that neither church has alone. We will have a fresh vision. We will have more workers for establishing needed ministries. We will be strategizing in our earliest days how to more effectively reach our community. There will be a new vibrancy as we “pursue life in Christ together with passion and purpose.” There will be a new urgency, a fresh excitement as we re-dream the dream of being a church of the Lord Jesus Christ in our community.

What will happen to the membership of the two churches?
Everyone who is a member of either BBC or CHBC and who desires to be part of the new church will be added as members of the new church.

What will happen to existing leadership (e.g., deacons, board of directors, leadership team, staff, strategy, etc.)?
If the two churches each vote with a 75% positive vote to merge, we will enter an intensive time (that will likely take two or three months) to form the leadership structure for the new church. Just as we have had a Merger Exploration Team, we will form a Merger Transition Team made of leadership from both congregations to put together the leadership structure and the important documents for the new church (e.g., Constitution and By-laws, Policy Manual, etc.) These will be brought to the new church for approval. Just as the two churches today utilize their own leadership teams or committees, the new church will decide her new leadership structure, including such things as deacon ministry, strategy, and staffing.

What is the financial status of both churches?
Neither church has any debt.

What is the procedure and timeline for the merger?
As this recommendation is made, there will be time for each congregation to consider this step of faith. Each church will have “town hall” meetings to answer questions. On Sunday, August 27, 2017, both congregations will vote separately at the close of worship. [NOTE: This is a revised date from the original document.] Each congregation must separately approve the recommendation. Each congregation will need a 75% positive vote to affirm the recommendation. If both congregations vote to merge, a Merger Transition Team, made up of leaders from both congregations, will start an intensive time of forming the new church, setting up structures that will bring the two churches into one. The new church will not begin meeting together immediately but will do so as soon as it is practical.

What happens if the churches approve the recommendation?
If the recommendation is approved, a new church will be formed. Therefore, a group of leaders out of each congregation, a Merger Transition Team, will be charged with creating a new structure for the new church. The Merger Transition Team will act as the Leadership Team for the new church until new procedures are put in place. Some of the items that will need to be accomplished are as follows:
• New Constitution, By-laws, and Policy Manual
• New budget
• New incorporation
• Staffing decisions
• Further decisions about property
• Application for 501(c)3 tax exempt status from the IRS (the new church will be able to utilize the tax exempt status of the Atlanta Metro Baptist Association until that is accomplished)
• Etc.

What happens if the vote does not pass?
If either congregation does not have a 75% positive vote on the recommendation, the merger will not take place. Each church will remain a separate body and continue seeking God’s will for her work in the community and the world.

Why is the Merger Exploration Team recommending this adoption?
It is our strong belief that the new church formed out of this merger will be more effective for the kingdom of God than either church can be separately at this time in our histories. We will come together with excitement around a fresh vision: “Pursuing life in Christ together with passion and purpose.” Our Merger Exploration Team does not recommend this as a motto but as our guiding principle. We are excited about what this new church can be! We have come to appreciate the deep faith of one another. We have seen our two congregations interact in joint events the past several months. We believe there is excitement. We believe the time is right. We believe strongly that God is leading us to take this step of faith!

What should I do now?
• Pray
• Seek God’s will
• Celebrate the opportunity God has presented
• Vote your own sense of God’s will on this recommendation to merge

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