- Field-Based Partnerships

 Interdev - The Power of Partnership
The Shape of Partnership


What Does A Strategic Evangelism/Church-Planting Partnership Look Like ... Organizationally?
Partnership is an active step beyond networking. The primary focus of a network is to share information. The focus of a partnership is to take joint action — to do something, and to do it better by working together. Partners need not give up their organizational identity to work together.
In previous case histories, mission agencies worked in partnership. Specifically, they worked together in what Interdev calls a Strategic Evangelism/Church-Planting Partnership.

Strategic because it is an overall plan to reach a whole people group. It includes all the possible ways to reach a people: linking media, medical projects, evangelism, follow-up, discipleship, etc. together.

Strategic Evangelism/Church-Planting because the clear goal is to bring people to maturity in Christ and establish them in their own national churches.

Strategic Evangelism/Church-Planting Partnership because the different parts of the body of Christ work together, each church, donor, and agency contributing resources and expertise to the overall whole.

Strategic Evangelism/Church-Planting Partnerships bring together radio, literature, relief, scripture translators, national evangelists, church planters, and others into a coordinated strategy.

The progress from left to right on the line above shows increasing integration of ministry agencies. It starts with an individual agency working alone, then becoming aware of others, networking with others, and then working together in a partnership. Most partnerships work together on specific, limited projects, as partner agencies continue to retain their individual identities.
The diagram on the left illustrates the old paradigm of ministries working independently.
The diagram on the right shows the same agencies retaining their own identities but working together
in a Strategic Evangelistic/Church-Planting Partnership.
What Does A Strategic Evangelism/Church-Planting Partnership Look Like ... To One Being Evangelized?
From the perspective of someone on the receiving end, a partnership approach looks whole. Message and messengers are connected and work together.

For a horseman in Central Asia, the message he hears on his radio ties in with the literature he got from an Asian evangelist passing through his village. That message fits what he saw in the Jesus film and heard from Christians afterward.

When local Christians meet the horseman and take him to their new church meetings, he finds a seamless continuity in the message and messengers. He doesn't have to puzzle through disconnected groups and information. Relationships — something he implicitly looks for in people — are appropriately modeled. The horseman is able to focus on Christ, without distraction from confusing or contradictory variations of the message, and disorganized or discordant messengers.

What Does A Strategic Evangelism/Church-Planting Partnership Look Like ... To Christian Field Workers?
In an effective partnership, Christian workers know they are not alone. They know they can count on many others with more specialties, and in more locations, than their own agency serves. They know they can trust these friends to handle contacts or converts that they pass on to them.

Workers can use each other's materials, and they can work together to improve them. Because more people use the resource, sharing the cost of a project among partners also lowers the expense for each agency.

New believers with whom agencies work will have a larger circle of Christian fellowship. In cultures resistant to Christianity, believers often feel isolated, so there is a tremendous advantage in the wider circle of friends that can come through partnership.

The church planter in a successful partnership depends on others in literature, video, Theological Education by Extension (TEE), and regional Christian fellowships to help supply them with potential contacts, discipleship, training, and church development resources. They don't have to do it all by themselves.

In a partnership, each worker doesn't have to "re-invent the wheel" in each phase of church planting.

The original reason for forming mission-sending agencies was for missionaries to gain the advantage of cooperation and not to go it alone. Partnership among mission agencies is the obvious next step in our changing world.

What Does A Strategic Evangelism/Church-Planting Partnership Look Like ... To The Emerging Church?
Contacts among believers help build the sense of a national Christian body. In the early stages of evangelism, believers may be few and widely scattered. A partnership between different ministries facilitates contact and fellowship between new Christians.

Partnerships also provide the ideal channel through which the emerging national church can learn of the wider Christian world through regional and international associations of believers.

CHURCH FELLOWSHIP:  A Case History of Partnership
Four mission agencies working among a resistant people had a combined total of twelve church planters in a region 500 kilometers in diameter.  Each church planter was discipling from one to ten new believers.

The different ministries collaborated  to organize an Easter conference for believers from all around the region.  The large meeting built relationships between national believers, gave national ministers wider experience in preaching and leadership, and accelerated the formation of seven churches in the region.

What Does a Strategic Evangelism/Church-Planting Partnership Look Like ... To The Non-Western Church?

The missionary growth rate in the West is presently something over three percent per year. However, in non-Western countries that same growth rate figure is over 13 percent! Estimates are that by the year 2000, the majority of Protestant missionaries will be from non-Western countries. While effective east-west, north-south ministry relationships have always been a challenging priority, this remarkable growth rate of Kingdom resources from non-Western countries makes new, effective forms of ministry mandatory.

 Non-Western missionary workers now account for as much as 80 percent of all personnel in the various Strategic Partnerships that are operational.

Strategic Evangelism/Church-Planting Partnerships demonstrate the practical potential for non-Western and Western personnel to work side by side. They can pray, plan, and then cooperatively implement strategies that call on the best resources that each has to offer.

Because of the unique environment, Strategic Evangelism/Church-Planting Partnerships allow a unity that has not been possible in many other more formal and traditional models of cooperation. Frequently, the power and intimidation associated with Western mission agencies’ larger budgets and administrative structures have made it difficult for non-Western leadership to have a sense of equity in participation and ownership of cooperative efforts.

Strategic partnerships give the non-Western sending church an environment which minimizes risk while, at the same time, giving their missionary personnel the fullest range of opportunity for innovative, rewarding ministry.

In Mongolia, basketball is extremely popular. Knowing this, national church leaders and mission agencies decided to develop an evangelism strategy utilizing that popularity while partnering to achieve their goals.

During recent National Basketball Association (NBA) championship finals, television rights were secured to broadcast the games in Mongolia on the Christian TV station. Instead of commercials, the station aired testimonies from Christian athletes — some of whom were actually playing in the games. Throughout the games, viewers received opportunities to write or call in to talk and pray with someone about what they heard.

In preparation for the response, all of the 51 churches in the country chose a "media representative" to accept letters and phone calls. One report had them receiving between 30-100 phone calls a day! The people calling in were invited to join one of the growing church fellowships in Mongolia.

Imagine the impact when every Bible-believing church in the country is working together with mission agencies and others to reach their nation for Christ!

What Does A Strategic Evangelism/Church-Planting Partnership Look Like ... To Sending Churches And Donors?
To a donor, a partnership translates into more results for our missions giving.

We all would like to see our resources have the greatest impact possible for the Kingdom. No one wants to see his or her donation diluted through inefficiency or duplication.

Partnerships maximize the use of resources.

For example, giving to one of the 40 mission agencies in a Central Asia partnership assures a donor that the resources of 39 other mission agencies in the region are coordinated for maximum effectiveness with no wasteful duplication.

If a donor gives to a medical worker, he knows that radio broadcasts, literature, evangelists, and national pastors are all working with the medical project. They supply contacts who are interested, help in outreach, and place converts into functioning local churches.

What does a partnership in missions look like? It looks like a body whose parts work together.

Are Partnerships Worth It?
Yes, say national leaders and missionaries working in partnership.

"Before the partnership, we didn't know much about what the other missions were doing," said one North Africa field leader. "It wasn't that we were against them or anything like that. We were just too busy doing our own work to consider what others were doing."

Since they began coordinating their efforts, evangelism contacts have significantly increased, numbers coming to Christ are up, and the number of new church fellowships has multiplied.

Such progress does not come without problems. Partnership in missions is a great idea, but questions immediately arise. Typical questions are addressed in Appendix A.

MEETING POTENTIAL PARTNERS: A Case History of Partnership
In exploring potential for a partnership initiative to a language group of several million people in the Middle East, the Partnership Facilitator personally visited more than 15 mission leaders. It took over two years and he traveled to three continents. He visited some more than once, and all this took place before the first meetings between partner agencies.

Was the process worth it?

Yes. The New Testament is now available. Literature reinforces the message. Christian workers on the ground follow up with those who respond, to disciple and connect them to the emerging new national church. The result is more converts and more new churches.

"New" funding has come in, beyond what any of the partner missions received before they worked together. Yet all the mission agencies remain separate, retaining their distinctive organizational identities.

From The Power of Partnership: Working Together to Reach the Unreached, 1998, Interdev.

Partnerships: Field-Based |<> Nationals |<> Church/Agency

Cooperation: Networking | Partnerships | Church<> Planting

AGP: Introduction | Adoption | Cooperation | Individual<> Involvement | Resources