Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.

Hello everyone, Joel Hollins here again, and we’re back with a new series for the Missions on Point Podcast.  This is episode 187 and we are so glad that you have joined us.  Please continue to pray for the work that David Meade is doing in writing a book with the same title as this podcast called, Missions on Point: the local church’s role in missions.  Be on the lookout for that book to come out this summer and if you would like you can sign up for pre-publication notifications at

Our new series beginning today is focused on church partnerships, and how church partnerships are essential for missions.  Church partnerships often get overlooked or assumed, and they can sometimes be unhealthy.  In order to avoid confusion, let’s get a definition here first.  Church partnerships simply defined is two or more local churches cooperating for the purpose of the glory of God in the Great Commission.  What a wonderful thing it is when we see two or more churches working together to go to somewhere else that needs a healthy church. 

I want to begin this series with a somewhat provocative claim.  I want you to consider this and hold off on switching off this podcast early until you’ve heard me out.  Here it is, the final goal of missions is church partnerships.  Or to say that another way, there is still more missions work to be done between a church and its church plant until the church plant has reached the point where it is partnering together with other churches to go to the mission field.  Imagine these two churches, the mother church and the church plant, partnering together to go to a third place.  Now, yes, I agree with what many churches and ministries often claim as the goal of missions in the planting of healthy churches.  But think of my assertion this way.  A healthy church needs to be doing missions.  That church plant needs to be doing missions.  And we should not orphan new churches until they are in a place of maturity where they are obeying all that God has given to the church.  In our missions efforts we are striving to plant church-planting-churches.  And our work is not done until we see the church grow into full maturity. 

As you know, Missions on Point is focused on the intersection of church and missions.  We need to be healthy in both our ecclesiology and our missiology.  In order to be faithful in one we have to have the other as well.  Missions cannot be done without the local church, and the local church cannot thrive without the fuel of missions.  At Propempo we talk a lot about the necessity of the local church to recapture its rightful place in missions.  For too long, parachurch ministries have supplanted the role of the church in the life of the missionary and in the strategic vision of missions.  Yet, we want to be careful here that we are not swinging the pendulum too far in the opposite direction.  We are not advocating that churches become completely autonomous, self-sufficient, and not getting help from other churches and ministries.  Churches are not to become lone-ranger churches trying to do it all on their own.  And this is where church partnerships come in.  In this sense, we should think of parachurch ministries as tools for facilitating church partnerships.  We’ll talk about that more in another episode.

For today though, I hope to show you from scripture how church partnerships are not simply a helpful option for churches, but that they are essential for churches in the work of missions.  Churches must have church partnerships within their scope of missions.  In fact, I would argue that a full and complete vision for missions sees church partnerships as the capstone of the missionary endeavor.  So, what do I mean by that, and how do we arrive at that conclusion?  In the next several podcast episodes, I hope to unpack this a little more.  Today though, we’re going big picture and looking at the flow of the biblical story and how it leads us to this conclusion: the conclusion that the final goal of missions is church partnerships.

To begin with, the ultimate and primary goal of missions is the same goal of all creation: the glory of God.  Psalm 96:3 says, “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”  And we could look at many other places in scripture that say that same thing.  The goal of everything is the glory of God. But how has God determined to bring about his glory filling the earth?

Mankind failed to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with God’s glory, and so God cursed mankind at the Tower of Babel, making our cooperation more difficult from that point on.  But from among all those scattered nations, God chose one man and the nation that would come from his lineage.  Isaiah 49:6 says it well. “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  Through the prophet Isaiah, God is talking about his servant, who is called by God to do ultimately only what Jesus can do.  Only Jesus is the true light of the world, shining the glory of God and bringing back the people of God from every nation. Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations. Yet, they failed.  But God, in His wisdom, now commissions the church to be his light, his city on a hill.

Paul says in Ephesians 3:8-11,  “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things so that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Don’t miss that key phrase in those verses.  It’s through the church that God has determined to make his wisdom known.  Here is the great mystery that God had kept hidden for ages past, that the church would fill the earth with the glory of God.  The church was hidden before Christ came.  You could say that it existed in seed form, but that seed needed to die, and Jesus needed to be raised from the dead before the church would explode onto the scene and blossom.  And so churches and the missions agencies that support them have got the right goal when they say that we need to be all about the planting of new churches. 

So, why would I then assert that the final goal of missions is church partnerships?

I say this primarily because of the overwhelming evidence in the New Testament that once a church is planted, then in some sense the work has just begun.  Some plant and some water.  Once a church is established, the work of missions isn’t over.  While God is providing the growth no matter what work we are doing, planting is not the only thing we should do.  Some should water as well.  The New Testament gives us a model of missions as seeking new churches established so that the gospel can be proclaimed to all peoples. However, that is not all that we see displayed in the New Testament.  The first missionary journey by Paul and Barnabas in the book of Acts sees them returning to each of the cities where they planted a church in order to establish elders.  For example, Paul tells us later on that Titus was left in Crete to “put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town.” (Titus 1:5)  It seems that while churches existed in at least infant form, they still needed to grow into maturity in Christ.  This is after all the reason why God has gifted the church with elders:

Ephesians 4:12-16 says that Jesus has gifted the church with these men “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

It’s wonderful whenever a church is formed in unity around the “one faith” that we share.  But, that church must continue to full maturity in Christ.  Missionaries and the churches that send them are negligent in their duty if they orphan young churches and do not equip them to grow to maturity.  The biblical pattern of missions demonstrates the necessity of developing leadership in churches that have been planted.  Woe to the missions ministry that has no strategy for leadership development.

Yet, leadership development is not the final goal of missions either.  Praise God if we have healthy churches, but God, through the New Testament epistles, was not done with the church, even healthy ones.  We still must work for unity between the churches.  The foundation of unity between multiple churches is our mutual submission to the word of God.  Yet, the question remains, what does the word of God speak to healthy churches which brings about their unity with each other?  At what point does a church plant turn into a church partnership?  Even more, how do we envision a bi-directional mutuality between churches across cultures and language barriers?

Here the book of Philippians is helpful for us as it pictures what a partnership in the gospel looks like. Christians across great distances are mutual partakers of grace both in imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.  Philippians tells us that we are unified both in what we do and what we believe.  As Paul did for the Philippians, we too will yearn for one another with the affection of Christ Jesus.  Advocates were sent both to the Philippians (which was Timothy) and from the Philippians (which was Epaphroditus).  We advance the gospel together without rivalry. We are confident that, even through imprisonment, the Spirit of Christ prevails through our prayers for one another and risking our lives to care for one another.  This is the Spirit of brotherly love throughout the New Testament.

James 2:16, “if we say to our brother in Christ, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”

1 John 3:17, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians about the Macedonians as an example for all the churches to give sacrificially out of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world.  Paul was determined to go to Jerusalem to see this gift given to the suffering Christians there.  Paul was devoted to this final dimension of missions even in the face of guaranteed persecution.  Churches ought not simply delegate the care for other believers to their missionaries. When it comes to mutual care and support of needy Christians as a vital aspect of Christian love, this is not something we simply ask the missionaries to take care of on their own.

I would argue that this kind of mutual love for all believers, not just those in your own church, is the basis of every New Testament letter written to the churches.  I hope you recognize that more the next time you read an epistle.  Every New Testament epistle draws the attention of Christians to love all Christians everywhere.  This is one of the reasons why these letters were passed around to other churches and read in them too. 

Churches are not alone.  We need each other.  Once a church is planted, there is still more work to be done in crossing cultures and establishing fellowship between those churches so that they can mutually care for one another and so that together they can work on going to another place that needs the gospel. 

There is so much more we could say about this, but we are out of time today.  Please stay tuned with us in this series of podcasts as we continue to unpack why church partnerships are essential for missions. 

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at and We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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