Partnerships in the Gospel

This article is from my teaching session yesterday on partnerships delivered to a group of Pakistani young adults preparing for ministry.


In my earlier lesson on Stewardship I mentioned a few things about partnership in the Gospel. Now I want to focus on partnership because everyone who enters into ministry by necessity must enter into partnerships.

When I managed Eagle TV in Mongolia there was a period of about two years when very few other ministries would work with us within the Mongolian church. Because of a serious disagreement over Bible translation and some theology, there were some churches that separated from us. One well-know organization, the Mongolian Evangelical Alliance, held back their partnership. That hurt our effectiveness in the community for a time. But when some of those who opposed us became reconciled to us later on, things changed and the very organization that openly opposed us became one of our advocates and partners. We needed partnership with others to be effective in ministry.

My current work on broadcasting requires the partnership of hundreds of people—TV and radio station managers, Cru staff across the globe, and donors, so that millions will see the story of JESUS around the world. If I work by myself, very little can be done. But because of partnerships we were able to reach over 300 million people last year alone.

For this session I’d like to present you with the case that all ministry requires partnership. In fact, the scripture is filled with examples of partnership throughout the Bible’s story:

Partnerships in the Old Testament

Adam needed a partner to care for creation (Genesis 2:18). In fact, God said of Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Right from the beginning of creation God wanted man to be in partnership.

Moses needed a partner (in Aaron) to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 4:14-16).

David needed the partnership of the tribal elders to rule over Israel (II Samuel 5:1-3). 

The prophet Jeremiah had a partner in Baruch who wrote and spoke for Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:4).

Daniel, who served as Prime Minister of Babylon,  had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to help him administer the kingdom.

Partnerships in the New Testament

Even Jesus needed partnership. Because of Jesus’ unique identity, nature, and power, some people think he worked alone. But this is not true. His disciples were more than just people whom he taught. They helped spread his message. Some of his partnership was financial, like the women who supported him (Luke 8:3).

Jesus sent out the disciples, two-by-two in partnership (Mark 6:7). 

Jesus gave the Holy Spirit, who not only leads and guides, but we partner with him in spreading the Gospel (Acts 1:8).

Paul rarely did ministry on his own. He needed partners for his letters, and his field ministry.

Even in the last days the two prophets who confront the earth are partnered together (Revelation 11:3-6).

Ultimately, partnership is modeled in the Trinity. All that God does, he does in partnership within the Trinity, from creation to establishing the Kingdom. Jesus did what he did in obedience to the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit. And their partnership had roles: the Father plans, the Son performs, and the Spirit empowers.

Philippians 2:13 tells us that working in partnership is done for God’s, “Good pleasure.” Partnership pleases God!

The Need For Partnership

“It is not good for man to be alone.” Even in an ideally created world like Adam had, he still needed a partner. God gave him Eve. We all have different roles.

“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Corinthians 12:7).

Partnership makes us stronger. “If one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

Even in our most difficult moments we need partners to uphold us. Remember that when Jesus prayed in the Garden before being arrested, he asked Peter, James, and John to watch with him in prayer. Yet they failed him and his stress was so great that he sweat drops of blood. Always connect yourself with others.

Partnership is a Requirement of the Gospel

The Apostles established deacons to help serve the needs of the church.

“Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:1-7).

Deacons freed up the Apostles to concentrate on their ministry. Is there someone that you need to partner with for the benefit of their ministry, or do you need a partner for your ministry?

Paul laid out requirements for deacons

“Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus(I Timothy 3:8-13).

Look for partners that share these qualities and the same values as you. Remember the man named, Demas, in Paul’s writings. For a while Demas assisted Paul, but in the end, he abandoned him. Paul said it was because Demas loved the world. Be sure that you and your partners share the same values.

Paul established elders in the churches to share in governing the affairs of the church.

“It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (I Timothy 3:1-7).

I would same the same thing to this passage that I said in the last passage. Sharing the some values and heart is important.

My pastor and I have become very close friends. But we don’t agree on certain things theologically. However, wanting to help him expand his ministry I put those things aside and concentrate on where we have agreement. He needs someone to help him, someone he can pour his heart out to. By being the person he needs, I’m helping him to be more effective in his ministry. Being his partner, for his benefit, is an important part of my personal ministry.

The Development of Partnerships

Ultimately, partnership is about relationship. We must develop relationships if we are to partner together for the Gospel.

Partnership and Fellowship come from the same Greek word: Koinōnia. Partnership is conceptually related to fellowship. It appears that the Greek word for partnership is usually translated as fellowship. It can mean, fellowship, participation, and sharing. This indicates that partnership is not merely the division of work or sharing of duty. Rather, there is an emotional, devotional quality to the concept. Fellowship happens from the heart, and so must partnership. Jesus not only wanted his disciples to share in the burden of the Gospel, but he also developed their relationships so that they could share these things from the heart, the seat of our emotions.

The development of partnerships brings accountability. If you see someone “Going it alone” in ministry, you are seeing a person who is operating outside of God’s will. For the one who is not accountable, falling to temptations becomes easier. Partnerships bring strength to resist sin and remain holy. But operating alone can bring pride, and possibly, a serious fall.

Partnership gives God glory because God uses partnership to accomplish his plans. Even God does not work alone. He partners within the Trinity and he partners with us through the Holy Spirit.

The Effect Of Partnership

Partnership brings unity in the body of Christ.

“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Corinthians 12:7).

Unity in the body pleases the Lord.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Far more is accomplished in unity than by solitude. Ministry is maximized.

Conclusion

No matter what stage your ministry is in, whether just beginning or having been working for a long time, pursue partnerships. If you want to have the greatest impact for Christ, pursue partnerships. Pursue the common good. If you see someone, or a ministry that goes it alone, your are seeing a ministry that is operating outside of God’s plan. God’s plans require partnerships.

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Corinthians 12:7). 

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