Many churches today want to move beyond simply paying and praying for missions. They want to get actively involved and move the average church goer to be engaged. One effective way of doing that is developing a partnership with a national worker or national church.
While that sounds like a great idea, in theory, it also can present many challenges. Often what the West has termed as “partnership,” over the years actually looks more like financial and personnel support—or sponsorship. Without careful planning and forethought, sponsorship can lead to paternalism and dependence.
I like to define partnership as 1) a complementary relationship 2) driven by a common purpose and 3) sustained by a willingness to learn and grow together in obedience to God.
There is a so much there to unpack, but notice it is a complementary relationship. That means both the local church and the national church contribute, and both parties benefit. Rarely do we think about what a host church might have to offer the sending church—other than a laboratory experience for growth, that is. Yet, if the sending church is sending money, people, and materials and there is no reciprocation then that is not partnership it is sponsorship!
There is a common purpose, a defined parameter we are working around. It is often good to develop a partnership for a specified time period, or based around a specific project. Parameters like that make it easy to judge progress, celebrate as God works, and answers prayer. It also provides natural checkpoints to evaluate the value of continuing the partnership, or places we can part ways based on how God is leading.
Finally, both parties need to be willing to step out of their comfort zones and be learner-servants. Each seeking to learn and understand the other’s culture and context – but most importantly, to serve in humility with one another, and obedience to God.
Easier said than done right? What kind of questions do I ask? How does a partnership conversation go? Watch next week for an article about how to develop a partnership with a national church or national pastor.
Article by Brian Stark
Brian Stark is the Director of International Partnerships for DELTA Ministries International. His focus is to come alongside the leadership of existing mission efforts in other countries for a limited time to assist in developing a church-based model of mobilization and short-term missions by that country for that country. The goal is to equip and engage nationals to execute effective church-based mission efforts through short-term missions and without direct long-term assistance. Brian has been a part of developing partnerships between sending churches in the US, Australia, and New Zealand and hosting churches in more than 20 countries.