- Partnering with Nationals

Partnership: the New Direction in World Evangelism
Ingredients for Success

Abridged from documents by Lorry Lutz and Luis Bush

1. Partners agree on doctrine and ethical behavior
Some Christians have a very narrow circumference of truth, beyond which they cannot comfortably associate with people who differ with them.  Others who hold the same basic evangelical truths, are able to cooperate with those who differ in non-essentials.

A model of cooperation comes from Latin America's COMIBAM International.  While 80 percent of evangelicals in Latin America are charismatic, non-charismatics were essential partners in the process. Throughout the history of the church these two segments have generally not worked together. But in focusing on the great cause of mission education and mobilization, the Latin church came together from a broad doctrinal base. The continent had crossed over from being a "mission field" to a "mission force."

It is essential that potential partners understand each other's doctrinal positions and believe that they, and their constituency, can work comfortably together without making issues out of differences.

2. Partners share a common goal
COMIBAM's common goal was to enthuse pastors and church leaders for missions, and to mobilize Christians to get involved in world evangelization. COMIBAM did not attempt to plan cooperative ministries or form mission agencies. Each national group would develop its own strategy, allowing for the many differences in background, doctrine and state of the church.

Partners who focus on a common objective rather than on enhancing their individual programs, will be far more successful than those whose goals are not clear. Personnel and resources will be shared, not only for the benefit of the partners, but to better meet the mutual goal.

3. Partners must develop an attitude of equality.
To some, partnership resembles the famous "safari stew" which calls for equal parts of elephant and rabbit—one elephant and one rabbit. Equal partnership seems impossible, since the West with its resources of money, technology, personnel and training is represented by the elephant. How can a Two-Thirds World church or agency feel equal with such a behemoth for a partner?

Yet the cry for equality is repeated almost without exception whenever Two-Thirds World leaders are asked about partnership. Neither side seems to understand the true meaning of equality. The West considers itself as "having arrived" in relation to its "developing" partners. Two-Thirds World Christians feel inferior with little to offer, or so they think.

Two-Thirds World Christian leaders want to be recognized as spiritual equals not only before God, but with their partners. Through its extraordinary experiences of mighty prayer (i.e. Korea), suffering (i.e.  Eastern Europe) and martyrdom (i.e. China), the church around the world has demonstrated spiritual maturity from which the western church can learn and be blessed.  There are many capable national Christian leaders who, in their own countries direct large seminaries, serve as heads of denominations and speak at international congresses.

Partners in ministry, just as men and women, are equal before God while differing in nature and function.

4. Partnership avoids dominance of one over the other
Who makes the decisions?
Who draws up policies?
Who controls the resources?
These are the questions Two-Thirds World leaders are asking when evaluating partnerships. If the answer is the "donor or sending agency," then there is serious doubt that this is a viable partnership.

Dominance encourages dependency—in children and in ministries.  Joint decision making at the grass roots level can be fairly easily worked out. But who makes decisions, designs policy and determines funding at the board levels becomes more complex.  If each organization in the partnership is autonomous, should representatives from each board serve on the other partner's board? Do donors' designations promote dominance by the funding board? What decisions must be considered by all partners, and what decisions should be handled independently?

These "sticky wickets" have no easy answers, and partners in the West and Two-Thirds World have complaints and suggestions about how it's working in their partnerships. The tendency to dominate in western agencies, and the desire for total freedom from controls and restrictions on the part of Two-Thirds World partners need to be worked at continually.  And this will only happen if there is open and frequent communication.

5. Partnership requires open communication
International partners need great sensitivity in communicating cross-culturally. The Chinese value of face-saving, the African circuitous route at arriving at an issue and the western direct, confrontational type of communication can be on a collision course.

Since misunderstanding can so easily arise in cross-cultural communication, it is essential that partners communicate frequently, freely and personally in order to avoid misunderstanding. In one agency, leaders will frankly discuss and make suggestions on such matters of operations and even fund-raising methods.  Face-to-face communication makes it easier to share victories and frustrations in the partnership. Sharing these insights is part of partnership. "We share our hearts with each other, rather than just keeping quiet," said one leader.

6. Partners demonstrate trust and accountability
Two-Thirds World Christian leaders are not adolescents needing to be protected. They should be recognized as mature, godly men and women who have the same spiritual resources for righteous living and wise judgments as their Western counterparts. On the other hand, Two-Thirds World partners will have to be careful not to arbitrarily accuse western agencies of covering up ulterior motives.

A trust relationship grows out of a properly formed partnership, for the ingredients of confidence are built into the initial understanding of each other's potential and agreements of what each expects of the other. Partner organizations generally draw up written agreements and guidelines.

Careful partner selection is critical. There must be a sense of God's direction and a conviction that the Holy Spirit is leading both parties into the relationship. Boards, goals and objectives, administrative structures and financial policies should be analyzed by both. Obligations to each other have to be clearly spelled out so there is no misunderstanding later. Such careful analysis during the selection process avoids a mismatch.

Accountability, as the flip side of trust, is built into these agreements. It is difficult to trust anyone who is unwilling to be accountable; while it is humiliating to be accountable to someone who does not trust us.

Not only are non-Christians ready to pounce upon any misstep a Christian might make, governments are scrutinizing funding procedures more carefully. Accountability of time and money not only helps partners maintain trust but gives opportunity for rejoicing in God's work and provision.  Monitoring freely opens doors and books to partner representatives. Western partners need to be transparent in their reporting of fund-raising and expenses to their partners as well as to their constituency and donors. Lack of trust and poor accountability on either side will destroy a partnership.

7. Partners must have clear financial policies
The greatest obstacle to partnership is that the church in the West has too much of the money. Though money is only one of many shared elements in a partnership, it wields a disproportionate power, primarily because it is over-valued.

A mission leader in the West complained, "Since we control almost all the money, they (Two-Thirds World churches and agencies) almost push us into positions of power because we have it." On the other hand, a national development leader expressed the quandary of Two-Thirds World organizations, "If a man has his hand in another man's pocket, he has to move when the other man moves."

With such potential for misunderstanding, a wise financial policy is an essential ingredient for effective partnerships in ministry. There was a period in missions history when giving financial aid was discouraged because it would "spoil" the national church, and deprive it of the joy of stewardship. Though this can certainly happen if funds are not carefully and judiciously given, the New Testament clearly teaches responsibility of family members for those in need in the family. Recognizing the financial inequalities between churches, Paul urges the Corinthians to give so that "at the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need" (2 Cor. 8:13).

Out of years of working through this issue, and countless hours of discussion and analysis, several clear guidelines for keeping money in proper perspective have emerged.

Western agencies and churches need to continue working towards open communications about funding policies and practise trust and non-interference in internal budgets and financial policies of their Third World partners.

Conversely, Third World leaders will have to recognize that costs of administration, fund-raising policies and donor communications are essential parts of the financial obligations of the Western agency which generally fall into the sphere of the agency's decision making. Both partners must follow agreed-upon guidelines as to use and reporting of funds.

One partnerships' national leaders agree to spend six to eight weeks every few years in North America, England or Australia representing their own ministries as well as our organization. They see what kind of information churches ask for and the questions they want answered.  They understand for the first time what is involved in keeping up mailing lists, sending out receipts, answering phone queries, and preparing publications. They appreciate us as their partners—but they also feel they have helped to raise funds and prayer support, and thus diffuse some of the one-sided power they felt we had.

8. True partnership demands sharing of complementary gifts
The motivation for partnership goes beyond charity, stewardship or even a commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission. True partnership grows out of the realization that accomplishing the latter cannot be done alone, that we lack certain gifts, skills or resources to complete the task. But we recognize that by combining our strengths with those of others we can do the job God wants us to do.

One partner contributes strengths to the partnership that the other does not have, in order to reach the common goal. Paul, our biblical illustration of a model partner in ministry, stressed the importance of differing gifts. He reminded the Roman Christians, "In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given us" (Romans 12:5-6).

However, as long as western partners see themselves as only channels for funds or other resources, the partnership remains immature. It is only as we become interdependent upon each other, each offering what the other needs, each receiving what the other gives, that the partnership is truly mature.

The western church's strengths which can complement the non-western church's efforts

  1. The history and development of missions which is rich in victories as well as defeats. The mission vision of the 19th and early 20th century which has influenced Two-Thirds World missions. Training opportunities and institutions which have provided highly trained leaders for the church and missions.
  2. Administrative skills and structures.
  3. Technology and trainers for such as radio, computers, etc.
  4. Sources of funding, though shrinking in the West, still represent about 80 percent of all "Christian money."
  5. The vast majority of Christian books have been written and produced in the West. Until more Christian writers and publishers are developed in the Two-Thirds World, most Christian literature in the world will continue to come from the West or be translated from English.
  6. Personnel—outpaced by Two-Thirds World, but thousands of quality young people are available, who have the opportunities to receive some of the best missiological training in the world.

The strengths and gifts of the church in the Two-Thirds World which can complement the missions program of the western church

  1. A more holistic world view of God and the spirit world, with a realistic awareness of the power of evil spirits. Faith in a supernatural being.
  2. A lively sense of miracles—expectancy that God can and will intervene in nature when He chooses.
  3. Interdependent rather than individualistic, the church in the Two-Thirds World has a deep sense of community and familial responsibility.
  4. The national Christian leaders know their culture, world view, language and customs and can help us understand them.  Nationals have insight that can avoid mistakes and poor judgments we might make without them.
  5. National Christian leaders bring fresh insights and applications from the Word of God. They share experiences of faith and courage that we in the West may not have known.
  6. Most national Christian workers know how to live on the simple lifestyles of their own people. Not only can funds be stretched to finance a larger program, but their example is a challenge to those of us in the West who have developed an over-extended lifestyle.  The missionary force from the Two-Thirds World is currently growing five times faster than western missionaries. Before the end of this century Two-Thirds World missionary personnel will make the greatest contribution to our mission partnerships.
  7. The prayer life of many in the Two-Thirds World church is a challenge to our faith. Prayer patterns such as the early morning prayer meetings of the Korean church, the all-night prayer meetings of the African church, or the 24-hour prayer vigils of a Brazilian mission, can enrich our partnerships.

Complementary gifts are not necessarily stationary.  As the Two-Thirds World church develops its leadership and giftedness, it may not need all the resources western partners now offer.  Yet as long as the task of world evangelization is uncompleted, we will need to adjust our relationships so that we can continue to work as partners.

9. Partnership demands sacrificial commitment
Partnerships are fragile at best, and misunderstandings and miscommunications arise easily, especially across geographical and cultural distances.  Each partner must have a deep sense of commitment to the other and a desire and willingness to give the benefit of the doubt when difficulties arise.

10.  Commitment to de-partner
While there is generally a need for long-term commitment in a partnership, unlike marriage, partnerships in ministry should include a de-partnering process when the mutual goal has been reached.  Or the partnership should make mid-course corrections that will target new goals, and perhaps change the contributions each makes to the partnership.

One of the greatest weakness of West/non-West partnerships is the danger of dependency upon western funds.  Through the partnership help should be given to develop local funds.  If the original partnership agreement includes a decrease of western funding within a certain time period, both partners can work towards that goal.

Both partners must be committed to each other, willing to take risks and make sacrifices to build the other up.  But that commitment should have its parameters clearly spelled out, and re-evaluated periodically to ensure that there are no unnecessary shocks, or that the partnership continues long after its usefulness has worn out.

11. Partners pray for each other
Prayer is the single most important contribution we can make to our partners—the most important ingredient in our partnership.

A couple, both medical doctors, run a medical ministry where Hindu leaders are fanatically anti-Christian.  The doctor has been called before the magistrate and accused of "converting a Hindu" by promising him financial gain.  A Hindu political organization has built its headquarters near the clinic so it can keep its eyes on what goes on, and warn patients not to listen to the doctor's religion.  Totally surrounded by heathenism of the most oppressive kind, this couple meets each evening after their long day in the clinics for family prayers with their children.  They know they must tap the spiritual resources of prayer to face the daily testings in their ministry, and they depend on the prayers of their partners overseas. In spite of the weight of opposition to them, each evening they pray for the needs and spiritual empowerment of their supporting partners and send messages of encouragement when they learn of family or personal trials.

The value of such prayers cannot be counted, and certainly never taken lightly. Prayer implements partnership no matter what the distance geographically and culturally. Each partner benefits. It's the one ingredient of partnership in which there need be no imbalance—one that each can contribute to the other. Partners in ministry know something of Paul's emotions when he wrote, “I pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel.”

Click here for original documents from Partnership:<> the New Direction in World Evangelism by Lorry Lutz and Luis Bush, 1990,  InterVarsity Press.

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

Cooperation: Networking | Partnerships | Church<> Planting

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