In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul testifies of the Macedonians that “according to their ability and even beyond their ability, of their own accord, they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints.” The Macedonian believers, out of abundant joy (and extreme poverty), gave generously towards the advance of the gospel. Paul also exudes with heartfelt thanks to the Philippians for the ways in which they partnered with him “from the first day until now” (Phil 1:3–5; 4:10–20).
As mission pastors, mission committee members, and church leaders, we often have categories to help us think through our partnership with long-term workers. The annual budget provides a helpful framework for thinking about how rightly to allocate training, trips, and financial resources to sent ones. What happens, though, when that email hits your inbox from a long-term partner and they have a special request or a ministry need arises that they didn’t budget for? Or, as has happened to me on more than one occasion—both as a missions pastor in the local church and even now for a parachurch ministry that helps fund healthy, reproducing church planting work in the 10/40 window—you receive a project request from a ministry you are only somewhat acquainted with? How are we to helpfully sift through funding one-off ministry needs?
I would like to suggest a process whereby you (as the missions pastor or lead pastor) and the elders or missions committee look at the partner first and then the project.
Assessing the Partner
While, hopefully, you are giving consideration to these foundational principles when determining annual budget allocations of local and global partnerships, here are four foundational principles to consider at a broad level when assessing the partner:
- Understanding of and Alignment with our Theology, Ecclesiology, Missiology: Does this partner align with our local church’s core theology (i.e., our Statement of Faith), ecclesiology (agreement with what comprises a healthy, reproducing church), and mission values (church planting/strengthening, work among least reached peoples and places, etc.)?
- Gospel-Centered Work: Is this partner someone whose primary focus is evangelism, discipleship, and church planting? We want to be about funding those partners and projects for which the accomplishment of the core missionary task is paramount.
- Target of Ministry: What is their focus in ministry toward as they engage in the core missionary task? Are they the lead planter, working on Scripture translation, developing a business platform for entry into unengaged areas, etc.?
- Relationship to the Individual or Entity: What relationship does our church have with this partner? Are they members? If not, were they referred to us by another like-minded church, missionary, etc.?
There is a lot of good gospel-centered work going on throughout the world, but with only so many resources, as a local church, you must make sure you steward well the resources you have. You want to invest in people and places where you have the most biblically based conviction, and, I might add, you want to invest more deeply with fewer partners who are known most closely by the congregation. These principles will only deepen the trust your members have in your leadership and in who the church is supporting, and adhering to them will likely result in increased giving, whether through the budget or in special offerings.