An Open Letter to North America’s Mission Agency Leadership Together
Fulfilling The Great Commission IS Possible
IBM's Asia Pacific President, Robert C. Timpson, commenting recently on the deepening strategic alliance between IBM and Toshiba in the field of semiconductor production, stated "It's no longer considered a loss of corporate manhood to let others help out."1
Michael Berger in his article, Exit Multinationals, Enter Strategic Alliances, stated, "The emergence of highly competitive markets is forcing companies to do the unthinkable; form alliances with once- sworn enemies."2
And, in his seminal editorial in Islamic Horizons, Editor-in-Chief, Kamran Memon, stated, "It is slowly sinking into our heads that the only way we can make significant progress in Islamic education, politics, media, social services, economics, etc. is to pool our resources and work together."3
God Established the Norm, Not the Business World
Long before leadership in the international business world or Islamic agencies realized they had to work together, Scripture makes it clear that open, trusting, inter-dependent relationships of unique parties was to be the Kingdom norm not the exception. The fall destroyed that norm--producing isolation between us, brokenness in our relationships, and fear instead of trust. No wonder Jesus says in John 17 that the principal sign of His integrity and reality to people outside the Church was how we, His children, love and relate to each other inside the Body of Christ.
Over history, countless Christian organizations have found ways to work together in various forms of partnership and strategic alliance. We celebrate and pay tribute to those who have and are continuing to do so.
New Initiatives in Partnership Demonstrate the Global Church
However, since 1985, Interdev has been working pro-actively to help Christians from around the globe work together in partnership at the grass roots level to speed fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Over the last 12 years we've learned a great deal. We've stubbed our toes, fallen down, and picked ourselves up again to learn, serve, and press on. Over 25 Strategic Evangelism Partnerships now exist among as many major "unreached" people groups. And, another 25-30 similar partnerships are in development.4
Over 225 mission agencies from more than 40 countries are involved in these partnerships--nearly 30% from non-Western, "Third World" countries. The Global Church is real! Considering the fact that 11 years ago none of these partnerships existed, the progress is encouraging. However, the real challenge has only begun.
Focusing the Global Kingdom Resources
Groups like AD2000 and others have helped identify and focus attention on the 1700+ acknowledged unreached people groups. While Interdev is committed to working with all God's people to finish that large task, we have prayerfully chosen to focus particularly on the 146 Gateway People Clusters or Groups (as some of you will know, definitional work is still going on regarding this "Gateway" terminology).
We are absolutely convinced that with the combined, highly focused effort of global Kingdom resources, a Strategic Evangelism Partnership can be a reality in every one of these Gateway groups in the next 5-7 years.
It is encouraging that AD2000, its Partnership Development Task Force and many of its specialized "tracks" are deeply committed to identifying and mobilizing resources for Strategic Partnerships at the grass roots, field level and among the Gateway Peoples/Clusters. In addition to AD2000, international Christian networks like the WEF and the Lausanne Movement have acknowledged the value of real, working partnership. We are now actively working with each of them, in different ways, to practically encourage and strengthen a growing number of partnerships in the field.
Working in partnership to realize this vision of functional community and restored, open relationships of trust is the biblical norm. Such partnerships are not to be confused with uniformity or some type of artificial "unity"--organizational or otherwise. In fact, over ninety percent of the partnerships which have come to life in recent years operate by consensus and each agency retains its own identity.
Without this conscious, functional community we will never realize credibility for our message (John 17), effective integration of our various parts (Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4), and the power and refreshment of His Spirit (Psalm 133).
Partnerships' Powerful Benefits
Born out of the biblical mandate, Strategic Evangelism Partnership have demonstrated powerful practical Kingdom benefits for mission agencies, local churches, and Kingdom investors alike. Among them are--
costs of evangelism and church planting can be reduced--to the individual agency and to the church at large
Embarrassing, troublesome, difficult to fill "gaps" in ministry are frequently filled and duplication is avoided.
Available resources for the task are frequently dramatically increased as more ministries commit resources in joint efforts with others. Risk for a mission agency's entry into a people group can be reduced through joint rather than independent efforts.
Ministries can focus in areas of strength (geographic, technical specialties, etc.) rather than having to try to carry the whole load individually.
Specialized ministries can function as an integral part of "holistic" evangelism strategies rather than being marginalized.
Conservation and sharing of collective wisdom between agencies is enhanced. Local churches wanting field involvement have a strategic context for connection with mission agencies--reducing risk and the negatives frequently found in "ad hoc," highly-individualistic efforts. Non-Western, Third World missionary personnel and agency initiatives are more easily integrated at the field level into the multi-agency, multi-national environment of a Strategic Partnership.
Ability to assess progress on evangelism and church planting is enhanced as mission agencies can cooperatively agree on goals and strategies. Our ministry donors have greater assurance that their investment is being used in high-priority, unduplicated work.
Global Kingdom resources (prayer networks, advocacy groups, etc.) are given a specific focal point which can facilitate a two-way flow of vitally-needed information.
More people come to Christ-- sooner. A viable, reproducing, culturally-relevant local Church is more likely to be established.
Strategic Partnerships are not uniform. Each has its own personality. So, the Partnership experience and demonstration of these benefits also varies widely.
Mission Agencies Are at the Center of Strategic Partnerships
Mission agencies--senior leadership right down to the field missionary--are the heart and soul of these partnerships. Rooted in partnership with the local church, mission agencies provide the core for virtually every partnership with which we work.
I want to invite you to seriously, prayerfully commit your mission agency to a pro-active role in helping form and sustain these Strategic Evangelism Partnerships. Together, fulfilling the Great Commission is possible!
High-Potential Action Steps Mission Leadership Can Take
You don't have to necessarily commit your agency to a radical shift in strategy or "jump in with both feet" to make a major contribution. Here is a list of specific action steps that could make a powerful difference.
1. Partnership Facilitators Needed:
To effectively reach the Gateway People Groups/Clusters, every Strategic Partnership in the field needs a full-time Partnership Facilitator. Action: Consider the option of loaning or seconding partnership facilitators as a high priority in your personnel recruitment or reassignment decisions.
2. Advocates Needed:
Every Gateway People Group/Cluster requires at least one Advocate in one of the "home" countries. Action: Consider assigning, loaning or seconding staff to this critical role.
Note: This team of a Facilitator in the field and an Advocate at home is vital if we are serious about mobilizing and effectively focusing the remarkable, rapidly-growing worldwide Kingdom resources. Lack of available, qualified people for these new, critically strategic roles is the greatest single roadblock to the establishment and operation of effective Strategic Partnerships among Gateway People Groups/Clusters. Interdev is aware, at this moment, of over a dozen major language groups where all indicators suggest they are "ready" for a Strategic Evangelism Partnership. Yet no "candidates" for these incredibly strategic roles are known to exist!
I cannot imagine a higher priority assignment of personnel in the world if we are really serious about speeding the fulfillment of the Great Commission!
3. Help Recruit and Train Advocates and Facilitators
In cooperation with other mission agencies, Interdev is now quietly working on developing a coalition that will cooperate specifically for the purpose of recruiting and training Strategic Partnership Facilitators and Strategic Gateway People Advocates. Action: Would you prayerfully consider participating in this group to think about how the power and reach of your own ministry could help speed this recruitment/training process?
4. Learn How to Form and Maintain Strategic Partnerships ,Since 1991 the Partnership Training Courses have been "essential" for Partnership Facilitators and Advocates. Mission executives have found them extremely useful. 3-4 courses are offered each year at different locations and varying in length from 6-9 days.5 With the course comes access to on-going, in-service training and counsel regarding partnership development.
Action: Attend yourself or send someone to attend the highly acclaimed, practical training courses being offered on how to form and sustain Strategic Evangelism Partnerships.
5. Attend a Strategic Partnership Consultation.
Five regional Strategic Partnership Consultations are now being held annually. These 3-4 day long consultations give you a chance to meet a high percentage of all mission agencies/churches working in a region. And, you can take a very personalized look at the Strategic Partnerships that are operating or developing in the region. Consultations are now meeting annually for North India, Central Asia, the Tibetan Buddhist World, the Middle East and North Africa. Additional consultations are being developed for Islamic Central/West Africa, the Minority Groups of China, Indonesia/ Malaysia, Central/South India and the Caucuses. Action: Consider attending or sending one or more of your key leadership.
6. Schedule a Strategic Partnership Seminar
Intedev's Strategic Partnership seminars for mission leaders are full of field-tested principles, case histories and ideas on how to work more effectively with other mission agencies and churches--from the Western or Non-Western worlds. The seminar can open a range of ideas on how your mission could expand efforts with the Gateway People Groups/ Clusters--or how you could connect with present partnership efforts. Interdev has done these seminars all over the world.
Action: Consider scheduling a 1-2 day seminar/workshop on key partnership principles for your senior leadership.
7. Order Partnership Resources for Your Leadership
The resource booklet, Partnership --Accelerating Evangelism in the 90s, is an excellent overview of the biblical and practical framework for partnership.
Action: Order a supply for your leadership.6
For information, dates, locations, on any of these seven action possibilities, contact:
Phill Butler Interdev PO Box 3883 Seattle, WA 98124, USA Tel: (206)775 8330 Fax: (206) 775 8326 E-mail: [email protected]
Ernie Addicott Interdev PO Box 47, Ashford Middlesex TW15 2LX, England Tel: +44/1784/420 695 Fax: 44/1784/420 696 E-mail: [email protected]