Audio Transcript:

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

Hello there, I’m so thankful that you’ve joined us for our podcast.  This is episode 192.  Missions on Point explores the intersection of the church and missions.  The church is central to missions and missions is central to the church.  You have joined us today at the end of a short series dealing with the idea of church partnerships.  Churches need help, and we find that as we associate with and cooperate with other churches. 

My hope for the podcast today is that you would be encouraged.  And the best place to be encouraged is from the word of God.  I hope you have sensed the spirit of these six podcast episodes.  And I think that spirit is best captured in Colossians chapter 1.  I’m going to read for you Colossians 1:3-8, and as I do so, I hope you will recognize there the sense of church partnerships that we’ve been talking about. 

Here is Colossians 1:3–8 (ESV)  “3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.”

It’s interesting to note that Paul may have never visited the church in Colossae because of what he says in chapter 2 that he wants to encourage people that he has never met face to face.  But, Paul has heard about this church.  The reputation of their faith goes before them.  Furthermore, the Colossians had a messenger who went out from them and told Paul about them.  Epaphras had given Paul a good report about the Colossians.  And in return, Paul sent Tychicus to the Colossians to tell them about his ministry.  And in this sense, many of the New Testament epistles are kind of like ministry update newsletters.  And these are roles that still exist today.  Pastors or missionaries or representatives from a church are able to share with others what God is doing in the life of a church as they visit with other churches or go to fellowship conferences.  Even more than that, every single Christian can be mindful of how they are representing their church to others.  Most likely, Christians know believers who are not in their own church.  And a common conversation topic ought to be how God is at work in their respective congregations.  It’s always encouraging to hear of other believers and the grace that our one heavenly Father has shown them, and their common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love in the Spirit that exists in their communion. 

With this in mind, I want you to be encouraged today by telling you about a few encouraging trends in church partnerships, especially as it relates to the centrality of the church in missions.  I’m sure there are many more that I won’t list here.  So, if you think of something I don’t say here, please visit our website and leave a comment on the podcast transcription page.  We would love to hear from you. 

Before jumping in though, I want to give you two thoughts: 1. A word of distinction and 2. A word of caution.

First the distinction.  When I am talking about church partnerships, I am not talking about every kind of organization of churches.  Specifically, I’m not talking about denominations here.  Denominations are often concerned with a particular kind of church governance structure.  I like to call these vertical structures because they have to deal with authority in the church.  In contrast, we have what we might call horizontal structures of church associations.  These structures tend to be more focused on something other than polity, maybe it’s a particular doctrinal agreement between churches, or a kind of ministry focus, and it’s interesting to see these organizations, because sometimes they cross denominational lines.  I’m thinking more about this second kind of church association because I’m talking about church partnerships that exist more explicitly for the sake of obeying the Great Commission.  While we may have disagreements among Christians about how the church is to be governed, or even over some doctrinal position.  We need to consider whether or not we are able to partner with a church for the sake of obeying the Great Commission together. 

Which leads me to the second thing to say here, I also have a word of caution too.  And that is this: 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 this can happen for a variety of reasons, chief of which is that your churches just have too much divergence theologically.  Theological debates are important and they have their place, but some of them have been going on for centuries.  And you’re not going to settle them as you try to work together for the Great Commission.  In fact, they might distract you.  And it’s better to recognize that for the sake of getting to the actual Great Commission work, you may just need to go your separate ways.  And we know from scripture and from church history, that despite how discouraging it is when Christians disagree with each other, Jesus is still Lord of the church and he uses such occasions to multiply the spread of the gospel to all the world.  We don’t have to partner with everyone, and it is not worth compromising our convictions and watering down Christianity to its lowest common denominator.  And on the other hand, it’s not worth arguing about those disagreements to the detriment of going into all the world to preach the gospel.  The work of the Great Commission needs to be firmly situated between the two comings of Christ, recognizing that we’re not in heaven yet.  One day we will have perfect unity and our theology will all align, but until that day we’ve got a lot of work to do in spreading the gospel to the unreached parts of this world. 

So, my first piece of advice here for churches is to know clearly where their lines of cooperation are.  If two churches are cooperating for the advance of the gospel, they have to be able to imagine a third church starting out of their partnership without too many issues to work through.  This is what a lot of people like to call theological triage, knowing what are first-order and second-order issues and so forth.  There’s an old adage that I really like that goes like this: in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty and in all things charity.  I find that calling them essentials is better than calling them first-order issues.  There are some truths that are essential for being in fellowship with other Christians, and then the things that we are able to have liberty on do not stop us from forming a church with someone else.  So, all churches need to first clearly identify their doctrinal positions that would allow them 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. 

So, what’s most encouraging in the trends that I’m about to list for you is this: there are many organizations that are starting to strike the right balance.  These encouraging trends emphasize the importance of the local church, but they don’t leave the church all alone.  We see many people stepping up to say how important the local church is in the raising, training, sending and shepherding of missionaries, and we see them stepping up to support the church in it’s job.  So, let’s look at a few of these trends.  And once again, I emphasize that these are simply my own subjective observations.  You may see more, and we’d love to hear from you. 

The church is increasingly of first importance, and here’s how we see it. 

  1. We see it on the internet. There is a significant rise in internet and social media content related to local churches stepping up in engagement in every aspect of sending missionaries.  There is an increase in missions podcast content, blogs, videos, website articles, and online training dedicated to assisting local church missions engagement.  For example:
    1. We have our own content on and
    2. The Greenhouse is an online resource made available by Pioneers
    3. Another resource is Biblical Ministries Worldwide. They’ve got a great video series called Senders videos.
    4. Along with these there are a host of other websites encouraging local church engagement. So, we see it on the internet.
  2. We see it in missions agencies. Missions agencies have increasingly identified churches as a primary place for recruitment, and their missions mobilization is often focused on “church engagement.”
  3. We see it at MissioNexus, which is a large and broad association of churches and organizations. It has recently established a full-time Church Engagement Director and a separate track for local churches at their annual conference.
  4. We see it with individual churches. They are stepping up and taking leadership in missions. And one of the main ways they are doing that is through initiating “agency partnership” agreements like what we talked about in our previous episode.
  5. We see it with the rise in organizations that specifically work to help churches understand their biblical and practical role in world missions. And I’m going to rapid fire go through a bunch of these here.
    1. Of course, I begin with Propempo International as the church engagement arm of MissioServe Alliance. We exist for this purpose. 
    2. Disciple the Nations is another missions agency like MissioServe seeking to not only send missionaries, but equip the church for its role.
    3. Another ministry that is focused on equipping the church is called 1615 which does church missions coaching and resources for great commission work.
    4. I, of course, have to mention 9Marks, which spends a good deal of their time equipping the church to obey the great commission.
    5. Radius International provides pre-field missions training, and they’ve got a good ecclesiology.
    6. Upstream Collective has a lot of great resources, and they have a sending arm too called Upstream Sending.
    7. Some reformed Baptist church associations make the support of global missions central to their reason for fellowship. I’m thinking here of FIRE, an acronym for the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals and also the Reformed Baptist network (otherwise known as RBnet). 
    8. A relatively new association of churches that you might not have heard about yet uses the acronym ACME for Association of Churches for Missions and Evangelism. And you can tell from that name that they exist as an association for this very specific purpose. 
    9. In addition to these, there are a ton of church planting networks too, that help churches: such as Acts 29, Pillar Network, Treasuring Christ Together, Harbor Network, Send, Redeemer City to City, Converge, and probably a dozen more on top of this. And, I’m sorry if I didn’t list your favorite one.  There’s just so many.  How great it is to see so many networks with an explicit focus on planting churches. 
  6. Last but not least, we see evidence that there is a growing support of the local church in the work of missions simply from field statistics. The more we talk to missionaries, the more they are talking about the benefits that local church engagement has had for their ministry.

These are just a few of the encouraging trends.  Maybe you know of more that we haven’t listed here.  Would you please tell us about them?  We would love to hear from you.  We certainly are not aware of all that is going on in the world of missions, and here is an opportunity for you to help us become aware.  Please let us know if you are encouraged by anything you are seeing in missions mobilization and especially the partnering of multiple churches to work together to obey the Great Commission.  We hope you have been encouraged by this series on church partnerships.  And we hope you’ve grown in your conviction that the centrality of the local church does not mean the complete independence of local churches.  We partner together for God’s glory to the ends of the earth. 

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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