Partnership & Pioneering. These are the words that came to mind a number of years ago. Since they first emerged in my thinking a clearer picture has begun to unfold. I think that Partnership and Pioneeringare two essential elements that are needed in order to enable local churches to realise their vision more fully and release the saints for ‘works of service’. (Eph 4)
In order to fulfil God’s purpose in our local communities, individual churches need a Kingdom vision. Our vision needs to be lifted beyond the immediate needs and desires of our local church in order to see how and where God is moving. The question, ‘What is God doing in my community?’ is an essential one, as is: ‘What is our role within the wider scheme of God’s working?’
Partnership is about local churches working together along with other ministries and agencies to achieve specific goals, objectives and targets. Examples of effective partnership can be seen where churches work together, often with para-church organisations to respond to a particular need. Complex community issues such as drug addiction, poverty, and the marginalisation of young people are beyond the capacity of one local church. Very often the churches who respond best to these issues are the churches who work alongside several other churches and specialised ministries such as Teen Challenge, Food Banks (Trussell Trust) and many others.
Churches achieve more
- We do more work while at the same time not over burdening the local church (when we try and do any of these things on our own, we become programme driven, overworked and burnt out)
- Gospel unity becomes a reality and the oneness of Christ’s body is revealed to the unbelieving community
- Break down the stronghold of sectarianism/denominationalism
- We respond to the needs of our community rather than overlooking them
- We become ‘salt & light’ in a way that we currently are not
- Individuals within our churches who have a heart for a particular area have more opportunities to put their faith into action. Those with a heart for compassion ministries (and who would be terrified of evangelism) can be directed towards Mercy Ministry where they can serve in a practical way
- More believers are released into their gifting in a way that the church cannot currently facilitate due to the resource limitations of a small rural church
- Those who have a heart to help addicts can have an outlet
- Those with a heart for evangelism can have an outlet
- Those with a heart for youth work can have an avenue for that to be outworked
- Since these ministries will be running, it will not fall on the already over worked elders to set up and coordinate new ministries (members get released, elders do not get over burdened!)
Many churches have a vision to preach the gospel and make disciples (particularly through planting churches). If we try and do the works of ministry on our own, pioneering will suffer. If we focus on building our churches and planting new ones Kingdom ministry will suffer.
However, as I have reflected upon the above scenarios, I have come to the conclusion that partnering with others will cause our pioneering to flourish. As we partner in the KoG, our pioneering will not be about ‘empire building’. I have already outlined how partnering will deal with the resource issue (no one church has all that it takes to reach our local area for Jesus).
As we do the work of the kingdom through partnership initiatives, the seeds will be scattered into various spheres. Members of our churches will grow in their sphere of influence, and this will potentially have an effect on the unbelievers. I do believe God will bless the pioneering work as we commit to partnering with others in a Kingdom Vision. God will add to the churches that we seek to plant as we obey him in committing to the work of his Kingdom. As we sow in one field, we will reap in another.