Audio Transcript:

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

Thank you for joining us for this next episode of Missions on Point.  This is episode 189.  For the last two episodes and continuing on for a couple more, we are talking about church partnerships in missions.  As much as we emphasize the centrality of the church in missions, we also balance that out with the reality that no church is an island.  We cannot do it alone.  We need help.  Church partnerships exist so that two or more churches can work together to obey the Great Commission.  But more than that, as we have noted in the previous episodes, churches send missionaries for the express purpose of forming a new church partnership.  As a mother church and a daughter church develop, they eventually become sister churches. 

In our episode today we are going to focus on the perspective of the church.  How should the church be thinking about church partnerships in the work of missions?  Don’t churches have enough on their plate already?  Isn’t it hard enough to do all the work of ministry we want to do with people in our own church, do we really need to take effort to cooperate with other churches?  Well if you haven’t been convinced in the previous two episodes on the value and necessity of church partnerships in missions, I hope you will stay with me and consider this topic from the perspective of the church. 

Before jumping in though, a word of caution is in order first.  Not all church partnerships are going to be worth your time.  There are many churches out there with whom it’s just going to be too difficult to cooperate.  And you really don’t want to head down a road optimistically and realize that you should have known better that it wasn’t going to work out.  A little bit of failed dating can save years of headaches in a marriage.  So, my advice here is that all churches need to first clearly identify their doctrinal and methodological positions around which they would then be able to associate with and cooperate in gospel advancing ministry.  Hopefully this is an obvious point, but if you’re not certain where your church is at on this, then it would be a helpful exercise to establish guidelines for partnership.  And you can do that long before you ever have a potential partnership.  More could be said on this, and I plan to do so in a later episode.  But it’s worth saying here: church partnerships are great, but you need to be careful about who you link arms with. 

After this though, how should we think about church partnerships?  I find it helpful to identify which role your church is taking in the relationship between churches.  Here let’s consider 3 kinds of relationships you might have.  Each of these relationships position the church with a different posture toward other churches.  And each have a unique value to them.  So, let’s think about the value of church partnerships from three different church perspectives. 

  1. The Sending Church

What should you be thinking about church partnerships if your church is in the position of being the sending church?  While having your minds fixed on the strategic vision of your church’s missions philosophy, that is not the only thing you should be thinking about.  You should also consider other churches.  Your church has a unique opportunity to be a blessing to other churches.  This is after all one of reasons why the Apostle Paul asked for support for his ministry.  He says in 2 Corinthians that as more people are praying for the work of the ministry, then more praise and thanksgiving will be given to God as the gospel continues to spread to more people.  So, you don’t want to go it alone and do all the work of ministry by yourself, because then other people are missing out on the blessing of supporting this work, praying for it, and seeing the answers to those prayers and giving God the glory for it.  Beyond this, other churches need help with missions.  Maybe they don’t have a missionary they are sending from their church, but you can share your missionary with them so that they can support the advance of the gospel around the world.  Also, as the sending church, you want to consider the fact that the goal of missions is to see a healthy church planted in a place where there isn’t a church yet.  And what happens when your missionary is successful at this endeavor.  Now there is a brand-new church out there without any connection to other churches, except to you through your missionary.  What does your relationship look like now with that church?  Perhaps as the missionary fades out of the picture and the new church matures, your relationship will turn into one of support on an as needed basis.  Maybe you do some training for the newly appointed elders in preaching and teaching.  Maybe you send short term missions teams to meet specific needs.  Maybe that new church becomes a base from which new missionaries can be trained in language and culture acquisition.  The possibilities are many.  The simple point I want to make here is that you should be praying and working toward this end.  Long standing relationships between churches are a blessing to everyone involved, and an ongoing testimony to the grace of God in seeing the gospel cross cultures.

  1. The supporting church

What should you be thinking about church partnerships if you are a supporting church?  It’s probably safe to say that this is the most common position that a church will find itself in.  Most likely a church is supporting more missionaries than it is sending. 

The first point to make here is what I’ve said before and that is that you should be thinking about this as a church partnership and not simply giving support to a missionary.  As you are supporting a missionary, you are also supporting the church that is sending that missionary.  Ask that church how you can best be an encouragement to their missionary.  Coordinate with them on caring for the missionary and even visiting them on the field.  You’re not just there to give money to a missionary, you’re partnering with the church that’s sending them. 

Secondly, feel free to have some discernment with who you support.  Don’t just take any warm body that comes knocking on your door asking for money to do missions work.  Be a little more skeptical that not all missions work needs to be supported.  This is one of the main reasons why your church needs a strategic vision for missions.  So, you can ask a host of questions about how closely this potential missionary aligns with your strategic vision.  We’ve talked about elsewhere the need for three axes of discernment.  One, how close is the missionary to your church relationally?  Do they come from a neighboring church where many people in the congregation know them, or are they only friends with the pastor?  Two, are how committed is the missionary to reaching unreached and unengaged people groups?  That should be a high priority because of how few are able to go and how difficult it is to go to those places.  And three, how closely does the missionary align with the ministry priorities of your church’s particular strategic vision, whether that be a particular target culture or kind of ministry?  Of course, it is most ideal if someone is looking to join the team of a missionary that you’ve sent to the field.  You can’t align any closer than that. 

My last piece of advice to the supporting church is that you should seek out relationships with other churches for the express purpose of being willing to support each other’s missionaries.  It is very exciting to see a number of these kinds of fellowships developing.  I hope to tell you more about these in later podcast episodes.  Praise the Lord for good supporting churches who see the value in building church partnerships so to better advance the gospel all over the world. 

  1. The Receiving Church

Last but not least is a perspective that you might not have considered before, but’s a very important one to consider.  When it comes to church partnerships, there is one church that is probably highly interested in having a partnership, and that is the receiving church.  While often forgotten about, this church is the neediest of all.  Churches need to receive missionaries that have been sent to them from other churches, in order to see their church built up and strengthened by the ministry of that missionary.  As we’ve said before, just because a church is planted, it doesn’t mean that the missions work is ended.  The young church is in critical stage of development, and sometimes requires more work and effort from the missionary than ever before.  Why are church partnerships important?  Because there are needy churches whom missionaries can help build up.  Church partnerships are formed so that some can water where others have planted. 

I have one more crazy idea that I would like to leave you with before we close out our time today.  When it comes to church partnerships, there is one really important reason for us to be seeking to establish them, and maybe you haven’t thought about this before.  And the reason we probably haven’t considered this is because we’ve never imagined that our church might be in the position of being a receiving church.  That’s right.  One day in the future, your church might need to receive a missionary coming to you from a foreign culture.  If the trends of secularization continue, the church in America might one day look like the church in Europe.  Western churches can sometimes be a bit prideful in thinking that they’ve got it all together and that they are always in the position of sending and giving and helping others.  But the truth is, we all need each other.  Healthy church partnerships between sending churches, supporting churches and receiving churches, ought to envision a bi-directional mutuality between each other.  In other words, the help and care and ministry ought to go both ways.  The arrow should not just point from us to them.  But we need to realize that Christians in other cultures have something to give to us too.  The body of Christ is meant to see each member functioning as God has gifted it to bless and build up the rest of the body.  Maybe one day your church will find itself in need and a missionary from another culture might be God’s way of growing your church.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  And wouldn’t that be just like God, bringing glory to himself?  He especially likes to show his glory as the church recognizes its own weaknesses.  Isn’t this exactly what happened with the early church?  The gentile churches sent support to the church in Jerusalem, arguably the oldest and most mature church of them all.  Who knows?  Maybe one day your church will be on the receiving end of ministry, and in that day you’ll be thankful for the church partnerships you have established. 

Whether you are the sending church, the supporting church or the receiving church, church partnerships are important for every church. 

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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