Partnerships do not just happen by themselves. Some catalyst sparks them into being.
In an ideal world, Christian churches, ministries, and organizations would spontaneously choose to work together to advance the Kingdom of God and see millions become members of Christ’s body. In reality, it does not work that way. Churches, agencies, and ministries are isolated from the broader experiences of others and often do not know how to access available skills or expertise.
The prime question before us is this: Will the thousands of ministry leaders emerging from within the Global Church work together in partnership—or will they perpetuate the old paradigm of individualistic action?
Our ability to make a larger-scale impact, and our faithful response to God’s call, depend upon us choosing partnering ministry over individual ministry. The Bible calls us to partner as widely as possible as a fundamental expression of faith.
The Biblical Call to Collaboration
Scripture is full of models, principles, and admonitions for us as we work together in partnership. For centuries, Christians have felt they could be more effective in touching the people of their community (and changing the world) if they could work together.
Here are a few promises found in scripture that are offered to us when we work together.
- We demonstrate the power of the gospel to change lives, thus producing open, trusting relationships (see Philippians 2:1-11).
- The Holy Spirit’s power is released in ways only possible when we dwell in unity and work together (see Psalm 133; Galatians 5:16-26).
- We demonstrate good stewardship. Working together, we maximize our use of the resources God has given us as costs drop and effectiveness increases (see Matthew 25:14-30).
- The credibility of our message is strengthened. Jesus says that those watching us are more likely to believe that he is who he says he is when we work together. This is particularly true in traditional, community-based cultures of Asia, Africa, and Latin America (see John 5:31-47; 10:38; 17:23).
- The Body of Christ becomes a powerful, unified community, demonstrating real love, commitment to each other, growth in Christ, and witness to the world (see Ephesians 4:1-16).
- We encourage use of the full range of gifts and abilities distributed by the Holy Spirit among God’s people (see Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12).
How to Start a Partnering Initiative
So if we agree that partnering is God’s preferred way for us to act, how do we start a partnering initiative? The earliest step in exploring a partnering initiative is quite simple: Assume that Christ’s Spirit is also inspiring others to address the ministry focus that he has brought upon your heart! And then we begin to look for those people.
This counters what can be called entrepreneurial isolation. Great ideas often strike several people at once, although they may be scattered and not in connection with each other. If our great idea is about a ministry development or a way to address a ministry challenge, we do well not to hide it! Yielding to the worldly thought to hide our entrepreneurial insight will only lead to isolation. Instead, we should do what we can to discover others who are thinking along the same lines—and discover the future together.
Defined Objectives Yield Progress and Hope
Partnerships are only a means to an end, not the end themselves. Few if any enter into partnership in mission simply for the joy of being with others on the journey! Rather, we want to make an impact, to change the world.
An effective, collaborative partnership begins, then, with limited and achievable objectives which expand as the partnership experiences success. People and organizations will remain in a partnership as they see progress being made. (The reverse is also true: No advancement on the objectives equals lowered interest in being in a collaborative initiative.)
While an effective partnership is driven by a big vision, it does not attempt to do too much too soon. In the beginning, an effective partnership does not try to pursue ambitious goals, where failure can lead to frustration and diminishing hope. Instead, it focuses first on defined objectives that are both valuable to all the participants and have a reasonably high possibility of short-term success.
This positive experience demonstrates the capacity of the partnership to realize change through its efforts. This leads to greater confidence, increasing hope, and a willingness to pursue broader and more challenging objectives. Success in smaller ways opens up into attempting success in larger ministry goals.
A Challenge to Deeper Partnership and Collaboration
Our Lord desires his body on earth, the Church, to act in unity as we make his glory known. In partnerships, we have our best chance to make an impact by uniting the energies of mission initiatives from many sectors and communions. This is particularly true in tackling the largest missional challenges before us that can only be done through cross-cultural, cross-national, and inter-organizational partnerships.
What do you think? Will the thousands of ministry leaders emerging from within the Global Church work together in partnership—or will they perpetuate the old paradigm of individualistic action? What stands in the way?
Several Christian leaders have been asked to continue the conversation by responding to this lead article. Read their responses and share your own thoughts:
Connect with others who share your desire for collaboration www.powerofconnecting.net
See over 70 short videos from global practitioners about actual partnerships. Youtube.com/visionSynergy
Dave Hackett works at visionSynergy