In Part 1, I posited that missions partnerships are the best avenue for the long term fulfillment of the Great Commission. Here we will consider the criteria for healthy missions partnerships. What criteria should a local church consider for determining which partnerships she should and should not engage?
Theology matters. A church’s doctrine should be paramount to determining missions partnerships. The local church has a mandate from God that is unique to the church. No other institution or organization is commissioned to make disciples of all the nations of the world. A church’s missions partnerships should be with missionaries and ministries who share the same theological convictions of the church. A biblical theology serves as the rails to keep the church on the gospel tracks.
A local church needs a clear and compelling biblical vision for making disciples of all the nations. From the very first verse until the very last tribe. If we are not careful, missions can be understood in too wide of a frame. If everything is missions, then nothing is missions. Evangelism and discipleship should be the goal of local church missions. Partnerships allow the church to focus on a people group or region to see them engaged with the gsopel and biblical truth for the salvation and discipleship of the people. The goal is making disciples who make disciples who make disciples, not just doing good things. In the context of the partnership, doing good things supports the work of evangelism and discipleship rather than replacing them.
When discussing missions in the local church, it may seem a bit sacrilegious to ask if something is practical. After all, practicality seems to run counter to faith. What is impossible with God? If God is for us, who can be against us?
By definition, practical means “of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas.” Practicality in ministry and missions means that the local church has thought a matter through and has a plan to fulfill what is being proposed. When a pastor challenges his church to reach the unengaged, unreached people of a geographical region, the natural question should be How? How are we to identify which people group? How do we identify a missionary or missions agency? How do we pray for the people and the work? How do we get started? What is the method for accomplishing the vision?
The question of practicality is not a question of God’s sovereignty, omnipotence or goodness. The question of practicality is a matter of compelling leadership by the church’s servant leaders.
The local church is God’s plan for the worldwide propagation of the gospel. She should take this responsibility with a determined intentionality. Everything the church does must be filtered through her God-given mission to make disciples. This includes evaluating and determining how to best use the resources God has given her in people, spiritual gifts, time and energy. The wrong kind of partnerships is sideways energy that gives the image of motion but does not move the Kingdom forward.