The goal of forming relationships with a church or community overseas is to deepen our connection as Christians, to better educate each other about what life is like in a different country/culture and to become involved in each other’s efforts to make our communities closer to the vision that God has for us.
We believe that everyone has been given gifts and resources by God. These resources (material, spiritual, emotional, relational, financial, and others) should be used for the greater good of God’s kingdom. We see close relationships between distant churches as a way to share the resources and knowledge that we have with each other.
Why a partnership?
- A church / group to church / community relationship can help both congregations express their unity in Christ which transcends national, ethnic, economic, linguistic and other barriers.
- Both groups can be encouraged as they see God working in the other.
- Members of both groups can be involved and serve as they use their spiritual gifts, skills, abilities, and professional knowledge.
- Spiritual growth is experienced. Entire missions programs may be revitalized. Communities are transformed.
- Both groups receive and give encouragement and support.
- Creative and innovative ministries are limitless.
- A career in missions becomes an option as Sister Church Program team members observe missions first hand.
- Both groups are often renewed.
Who are the partners?
- North American churches / groups should look for strong churches or communities that have stable leadership and financial support for operating expenses, and are involved in their community. This may be counter-intuitive. However, if the relationship is going to be a true partnership that does not create dependency, it is important to relate to a church that is strong enough to do its ministry without assistance from North America.
- Majority world churches should look for a sister church which recognizes that it does not have all the answers for how to do ministry in another country and which needs the strength and vitality of non-Western churches to be a more faithful reflection of Christ in its local ministry.
Church-church relationships are:
- Long-term and sustainable. We don’t want to just introduce people but for them to be able to spend many years getting to know each other and praying for each other.
- About much more than financial support; our focus is on spiritual development and education as well as support and expansion of the current development work.
- New. This is a new program for World Renew and World Missions and we hope that it will work well so that others can also benefit from it. That means that it will take patience from everyone involved as we decide together what the best way forward is.
- Cross-cultural. It will be a bit more difficult to communicate than if we were all from the same place and spoke the same language. We can still have a very meaningful relationship but we have to take time to learn about each other’s culture and try to understand our differences and similarities.
- About sharing resources of all kinds.
Church-church relationships are not:
- A way for individuals to ask for private donations or to privately donate.
- Standardized. Each congregation is different and therefore your relationship will be unique.
- Perfect! Churches and organizations are made up of people and people make mistakes. We will all do our very best and pray that everything will go smoothly but we need to also be open-minded and flexible.
- Going to happen overnight, it is a process – like any other relationship and we hope to grow together.
What other organizations are saying about partnerships:
Partnership Definition (Unity in the Harvest Field – Alex Araujo – PI/IPA – 2006)
A working relationship between two or more autonomous entities whereby each contributes, by mutual agreement,
some of its own resources according to mutually established and clearly defined expectations toward the
accomplishment of a common goal.
- a working relationship – working relationship – not simply an opportunity for fellowship and relationship building
- between two or more autonomous entities – autonomous entities – not controled or dominated by the other
- whereby each contributes, by mutual agreement, some of its own resources – each contributes from its own resources – not simply a one-way giver-receiver arrangement; both give, both receive
- according to mutually established and clearly defined expectations – clearly defined expectations – objective reference when misunderstandings occur; better stewardship
- toward the accomplishment of a common goal – Common goal – provides guidance to design and operation of partnership.
Why partnerships (summary of EFC consultations on “Church 2 Church”)
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) has identified a trend: churches want to have direct relationship with churches and ministries in other countries. A “Church 2 Church” relationship is most often requested from urban churches; from those who have contacts with people from other countries already.
Some cautions and questions to ask: What are the motives? Is there long term Kingdom vision? Is there a distinction between general connections among family of God and those who are partnering for specific outcome? Is it mission ‘to’ or mission ‘with’? Is there a need to change our view of the world, and change our mission habits? Yet, could the trend of church-to-church partnership be seen as an expression of a post-mission phase in the global church? Can this be seen as a God-given opportunity to enjoy fellowship with Christians in other parts of the world without calling it “mission”?
Items to consider:
- Church to church partnerships are not necessarily the best means of reaching all parts of the world
- Need for education and accurate information
- Difference between fellowship and partnership – focus on the idea of “co-labourers”
- Reflect on Christian tourism vs. mission
- Cultural relevance issues
- Everyone is ethnocentric (thinking their own cultural patterns are right) and are often unaware of the depth of differences cross-culturally.
- Contrast between cold climate cultures (task oriented) and hot climate cultures (relationship based)
- How do we navigate the common roadblocks?
- Need to take the time for real relationship-building, whether the goal is Christian fellowship or missional partnership
- What happens to assets when partnership is over?
- Define expectations at beginning of relationship
- Need accountability structures
- Whose work is it? – address ownership issues at the beginning
Nine Things I’m Learning and Unlearning
(From an interview with Bob Roberts, pastor of NorthWood Church, Texas, January 1, 2007)
- I'm learning … that mission begins with Christology not ecclesiology. Following Jesus leads us to mission, which leads to churches gathering.
- I'm unlearning … my assumption that starting churches naturally leads to mission. It doesn't. Churches default to self-focus unless a commitment to be like Jesus in the world comes first.
- I'm learning … that being glocal means decentralizing power, decision making, information, all of it. The kingdom of God means ministry opportunities are available to almost everyone.
- I'm unlearning … the American church's traditional focus on a super-star speaker, worship leader, educator, and shepherd, which serves mainly to attract spectators rather than igniting the power of everyone else.
- I'm learning … that we serve not to convert but because we have been converted. We serve because Christ has changed us and made us servants to people who are hurting and lost.
- I'm unlearning … the assumption that "Christian" is defined primarily as acknowledging a moment of conversion. Becoming a follower of Jesus depends on what happens after that.
- I'm learning … to love people, which means to see them healed, educated, and given the same opportunities that we have.
- I'm unlearning … that the Christian faith is all about heaven. I believe the church has denied the future by just waiting for the Second Coming. We need a story that includes the future.
- I'm learning … the kingdom will be established not by human power or entertainment, but by realizing God's concern for humanity and the whole of society.