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Checkpoint

Partnership in the gospel

Partnership in mission is one of CMS’s core values. CMS Australia Development and Training Secretary David Williams explores why partnership is central to who we are and what we do:

A friend of mine is a missionary. He works in Madagascar, helping to equip African Evangelists for a church planting initiative that they pray will see thousands of people come to Christ. After having flown to Madagascar, my friend spent months learning the local language, to enable him to teach the good news of the Lord Jesus clearly. He is supported by his home churches, who give sacrificially to a mission agency that coordinates his financial and prayer support.

As I’ve told that story, perhaps you’ve painted a picture in your mind of the tropical jungles of Madagascar. As you’ve imagined the scene, let me ask you: what is the skin colour of the missionary? Black or white? I’d guess that the pictures most of us have painted give the missionary white skin. So the part of the story that might surprise you is that my friend is a black Kenyan, the supporting churches that are funding him are all Kenyan and the mission agency that has sent him is Kenyan.

A two-fold challenge

Over the last 25 years, mission has been changing very rapidly, confronting us with a two-fold challenge. On the one hand we must hold firmly to the unchanging truth of God’s Word, to the gospel of Jesus Christ which is the only hope of rescue for a lost and broken world. On the other hand, we must be radically flexible, willing to do away with old stereotypes as we seek to proclaim this good news to the ever-changing world that we live in. This double challenge demands that we think carefully and biblically about how we work in partnership with others as we serve together in mission.

The biblical foundations of partnership

Paul’s letter to the Philippians offers us a biblical foundation for our understanding of partnership. Paul sees all Christian people as being in koinonia partnership together. Because we are in Christ and share God’s grace, all Christians are by definition in partnership with one another. We therefore have the privilege and responsibility of being a world-wide family of fellow-workers. We share in the task of advancing the gospel by preaching Christ to the ends of the earth. Paul is clear that those who ‘share in Christ’ are given a status that actively involves us in the work of the gospel.

Paul uses this model of partnership to describe not only the local fellowship of Christians but also the relationship between Christians who are geographically separated. When we consider how we can extend our influence beyond our local reach, we are to engage in partnership with others ‘there’ just as we engage in koinonia locally with each other ‘here’. It is the same pattern of relating with each other, but requires careful thought, effort and communication because of geographical separation.[1]

This ‘partnership in the gospel’ is a rope woven with four strands – doing, praying, communicating and supporting. Partnership is about doing the work of the gospel, proclaiming and living it; it’s about praying for one another; it’s about communicating with one another in order to encourage each other in our gospel witness; it’s about sharing with one another materially, from those who have been blessed to those who need support, in whichever direction is necessary. Every single one of these strands of the rope runs both ways.

Serving together in partnership

At CMS we are the Church Missionary Society. We exist to help the Church do mission. We don’t exist to do mission instead of the Church. Our role is to enable God’s people to work together across geographical and cultural boundaries. Navigating these differences of language and culture requires a high level of training and preparation. We bring the cross-cultural expertise that enables gospel-minded people to serve together in gospel-centred partnerships. In this edition of Checkpoint we introduce you to some of the people and ministries around the world who share in gospel partnerships with God’s people in Australia.

[1] Crosslinks. 2007. Partnership in the Gospel – a thematic study of Philippians, London.