This is an article from the April-June 1999 issue: Strategic Partnerships

MF Behind the Scenes

It's Time for Jesus to Get an Answer to His Prayer

MF Behind the Scenes

In John 17 we see a very intimate picture of the Son of God praying to His Heavenly Father. We see a very clear example in Jesus of how we should relate to God and to each other. Jesus glorified God by completing the work He was given to do. So should we. We have been given the task of bringing the Gospel to every tribe, tongue, people and nation, but we have not yet completed this commission.

Then Jesus prayed for the means by which this task would be complet-ed. In just the four verses of John 17:20-23, Jesus prays twice that His followers may be one, in order that the world may believe and know that God the Father sent Jesus. Phill Butler of Interdev has said, "Except for the Great Commission itself, this is one of the strongest comments Jesus made on missions. He hinged the credibility of our mission message on our oneness in Him. It's as if He said to the world, 'Don't believe them if they don't have unity among themselves.'"

Jesus prayed, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:23). It is very clear from this passage that Jesus connected the unity of the Body of Christ with demonstrating God's love and completing world evangelization. But how can this prayer ever be answered when there are so many denomina-tions and different ministries and mission agencies? What kind of unity is even possible? There are even some that vehemently oppose the idea of large-scale cooperation for fear of recreating past ecumenical movements that turned liberal and denied the essence of the Gospel. So was Jesus' prayer a mistake? Certainly His prayer was according to God's will. It could not be otherwise.

Jesus expressed in His prayer the Godhead's desire that the Body of Christ proclaim a unified message of God's love to the world, but for whatever reason it has remained unanswered until now. It's time for us to give Jesus the answer to His prayer and the nations as His rightful inheritance (Psalm 2:9).

A Fresh Wind of God's Spirit Is Blowing.

In this issue of MF we celebrate the new thing that God is doingdrawing His people together in partnership to reach the unreached peoples. It is a paradigm shift in the way the Body of Christ is doing mission. It could be the beginning of the answer to Jesus' prayer.

There have been efforts in the past at cooperation to reach the unreached but what God is doing in our day is larger and more developed than any other previous efforts. Phill Butler, whom we feature in this issue, did not start this movement, but he certainly has taken advantage of the moving of God's Spirit in drawing people together to reach the unreached peoples. (See the article starting on page 14.)

This move of God's Spirit is crossing denominational and parachurch boundaries. Churches and agencies from various backgrounds are partnering together to reach specific peoples like the Kazakhs.

It used to be that the Southern Baptists thought they could complete world evangelization by themselves. They repented of this notion before the global assemblage of mission leaders at GCOWE '95 in Seoul, Korea. The results of their new-found partnership with hundreds of different denominations and agencies has been stunning.

God is bringing His people together, not by wiping out our differences, but by bringing us together around the Biblical faith we proclaim and the passionate hope of offering the nations to our God as His joyful worshipers.

The dozens of Strategic Partner-ships initiated by Interdev are one example of how God is bringing a unity of purpose and direction in reaching the unreached peoples to a very diverse group of agencies on the field. As these agencies work together they discover that instead of losing power and impact, they are actually gaining influence and getting greater results as their strengths are added to those of others to bring a far greater kingdom advance than any one organization could do separately.

But there is a problem. In order for these Partnerships to work there must be Facilitators for each one. There are currently 54 Partnerships in operation and 79 that are developing with many of these waiting for a person or persons to come forward to act as Partnership Facilitators. Agencies need to assign people to this task and, like the Southern Baptists, recognize that they need others to do their job better. It should not be hard to raise up the 100 or so needed Facilitators from the hundreds of mission agencies that now exist. Does your agency have someone who could fill this role for a developing Partnership on one of your fields of service? Think about assigning someone. I think you will like the results.


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