Building Healthy Church Partnerships

18 Feb 2019

When I was a pastor, I enjoyed seeing the fruit of healthy partnerships with Pioneers and other mission agencies. But this is not every church leader’s experience. Local churches often feel mission organisations view them as mere sources of money and personnel. There are many pressing ‘local’ demands on the resources the church leaders steward, and lots of ‘local’ ministries to oversee.

In 2004, the Lausanne Movement commissioned a paper entitled, ‘The Local Church in Mission’.1 The paper lists 28 characteristics of ‘missional congregations’, or local churches. The last characteristic listed is, “missional congregations connect with mission organisations”.

Having rightly affirmed that the local church is frequently the ‘centre point of God’s redemptive strategy,’ the authors mistakenly then write, ‘mission organisations must merely use the local congregation as a supply of finance and personnel’. Oops! Did you spot the error? The missing word is “not”. They should have written ‘Mission organisations must not merely use the local congregations as a supply of finances and personnel’.

Since the cross-cultural mission necessarily requires cross-cultural workers and financial support, pastors can fear losing members to other spheres of ministry far away and added financial pressures on already stretched budgets. Local needs are great, which makes prioritising time in the context of busy pastoral ministry to connect with mission organisations a challenge. This omission of one single word in the Lausanne statement above serves as a reminder of the importance of building healthy partnerships between agency and church. And the key to this is clear: frequent, honest communication.

Let’s be clear: Pioneers is committed to an effective partnership with local churches. It’s one of our vital values. It is local churches that send. The Pioneers team comes alongside local churches to provide support by bringing our collective experience, gifts and skills to help those churches extend their gospel reach; to help churches here reach people elsewhere by sending and caring with excellence.

This commitment to partner with the local church is articulated in a Pioneers brochure that states, “Pioneers stands fully committed to the local church and exists solely to help the local church do its work of world evangelisation.”

A part of my role with Pioneers relates to thinking through how Pioneers can continue to grow and strengthen our partnership with local churches by building on strategies and approaches that genuinely serve those churches and meaningfully enhance gospel proclamation. I am very keen to speak with anyone with ideas about how we might do this better. I can be contacted via the Pioneers office.

My prayer is that in partnership we ‘may send people on their way in a manner that honours God’ (3 John 6b) and see Him glorified.

-Wayne Forward, Member Development/Church Partnerships

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