The Blessing of Partnerships
We thank God for the privilege of participating in a spiritual partnership with individuals and churches who pray for us and financially support us. Throughout our support-raising travels, God fulfilled our desire to spend extended ministry time with about a dozen churches. We are thankful for those opportunities to see God’s work around the States, for chances to be an encouragement, and most of all for the special relationships with brothers and sisters that still continue today. How blessed it is to link hands and hearts in the greatest Cause of all.
God’s Pattern for Partnerships
We believe God has provided a general model for the missionary-church relationship through the example of the missionary and apostle Paul. This is the pattern we work to follow, specifically the prime example of Paul’s relationship with the church of Philippi. He says they had a “partnership in the gospel” (Phil 1:5), and that no church “entered into partnership” with him like they did (4:15b). From these two passages in Philippians we summarized three (of many) important aspects of a biblical partnership (with the acronym GMC): (1) gospel-advancing, (2) mutual, and (3) committed. The basis of our partnership is the gospel message that saves us, unites us, and compels us to go and teach it to others. Both the missionary and the local church ought to work together in a committed relationship of mutually helping the other through regular communication with one another, regular prayer for one another, and spending quality time with one another.
Paul’s Example of a GMC Partnership
1. Gospel Partnership “Partnership in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5)
The Philippians prayed for Paul and financially gave to him because they earnestly desired for the gospel to spread through his ministry. They knew Paul was a zealous promoter of the gospel to all nations, and they supported him because the Spirit gave them this same desire.
2. Mutual Partnership “[You] entered into partnership with me.” (Phil. 4:15)
Paul and the church at Philippi had a mutual partnership through prayer, encouragement, and investment. Paul strengthened the church through his continual prayers for them (1:3-4; 9-11) while the church prayed for Paul (1:19). Paul visited and wrote to the Philippians to encourage them by thanking them, sharing his heart for them, and exhorting them (4:1). They in turn encouraged him by sending some gifts as an act of kindness in times of physical need (4:10, 14). Paul did not seek financial support merely to meet his needs (though he had the right to as a preacher of the gospel), but his motive was for the increase of the giver’s heavenly rewards. He reminded the Philippians’ that their financial support of him was an eternal investment. So when receiving a gift, Paul took greater pleasure in knowing the giver would receive eternal rewards than in his needs being met. (4:17)
3. Committed Partnership “from the first day until now” (Phil 1:5).
Their relationship was not a “hello… goodbye” to a stranger passing by, but a loyal fellowship that had lasted 10 years. Paul did not forget his churches. He prayed for them regularly. Neither did the church forget Paul. They prayed for him consistently, maintaining communication and financially supporting him through the years. Paul singled them out from other churches as his most faithful partner (4:15).
The Root of Partnerships
The very root of healthy gospel partnerships is quality time together. It is out of natural relationships that gospel partnerships develop, relationships growing out the soil of trust and sincere love that is nurtured over time through mutual fellowship and mutual ministry. Paul knew this and exemplified it. He said about returning to Corinth, “I will stay with you or even spend the winter…. For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.” (1 Cor. 16:6-7)
This is the kind of partnership we have tried to nurture and now hope to maintain with individuals and churches who share in our ministry. By God’s grace, we hope to keep communicating, continue in prayer for our partners, and spend quality time together when visiting back in the USA.
Updated Sept. 2014