Churches Partnering in Mission

“God bless you greatly, it is very pleasing for us to have the power to include you each year and we thank you for your aid.” Those are the words of Pastor Nito Castro Vilarino, a Spanish Free Methodist church planter in Madrid. This summer, for the second year, a Canadian team of young adults worked alongside Nito and his wife Lili in their outreach to marginalized youth in a suburban park.
This partnership began three years ago when a Canadian FM exploratory team met with Nito and Lili to understand their vision for ministry. For the past two years the Free Methodist Church in Westport, Ontario, has sent team leaders Ike and Kathy Doornekamp to continue building the relationship and contribute to their ministry. Chris Crozier, the son of Westport pastor Rusty Crozier, was with the Encounter team in 2005 and is back in Madrid spending 6 months working alongside Nito and Lili.
In the current global situation we need to realize that the centre of the Christian world has moved to the southern hemisphere. Post-modern, post-Christendom, North American Christians are steadily losing any influence we had just because we were “Western Christians.” Latin American, African, Asian Christians are taking the lead in evangelizing their own countries and people groups. What’s different about their approach, however, is that they are asking to work at this task together with North American Christians, rather than independently.
Paul Gupta, president of the Hindustan Bible Institute in India says, “If we are going to develop healthier environments of interdependency we must understand we are all on the same page; we are all dependent, must have a global mindset and must find ways of working together in order to create a synergy that will make a difference. We must develop systems of mutual trust and accountability.”
The underlying missiological principles in the partnership model are 1) that God gives vision, gifts and resources to all parts of his body, whether in Canada or in Cambodia; 2) that the Great Commission – to take the Jesus story to all people groups – is given to all believers, whether in Canada or in Cameroon. Therefore in our present globalized world, the whole family of Jesus-followers needs to be involved, working together, in the mission of the Church. Each part of the family brings vision, gifts and resources to the table.
A developmental partnership in Christian ministry is a cooperative relationship between two autonomous bodies whereby each enables the other to grow in its capacity to initiate and carry out change for the sake of the gospel. Our experience has shown that Canadian churches involved in partnerships gain as much from the partnership as their international partners.
Developmental partnerships have three characteristics: relationship, vision, and results. Relationship is the means by which trust, communication, and collaboration are made possible – “do we know each other well enough to respect and trust each partner’s contribution to the whole?” Vision is a compelling picture of what the partnership can achieve and how it is going to get there – “what can be done together for the Kingdom and how are we going to do it?” Results describes the partnership’s capacity to deliver tangible outcomes – “what are we getting done?”
Partnerships between local congregations and international ministries represent a unique opportunity for church involvement in mission. These partnerships take all the available mission education, intercultural sensitivity, and mobilization resources of a local church and Global Ministries input, and integrates them into a comprehensive expression of the life of a local church in mission.
In the summer of 2006, Ricelawn FMC in Welland, ON sent Senior Pastor Bob Snider, ministerial intern Chris Payk and his wife Terri, as well as board member Germain Coloumbe, to Taipei, Taiwan on an exploratory trip. Ricelawn Church is investigating the possibility of a long-term partnership with a church in Taipei, one of our identified Gateway Cities. Chris and Terri spent 6 weeks working alongside Pastor Daniel Lo in the Mu Cha FMC, while Bob and Germain spent a couple weeks in Taipei and outlying regions. From this initial visit a 3-5 year ministry partnership is developing.
Barrie FMC sent an exploratory team to Accra, Ghana, last summer, and this year John-Mark and Loreli Cockram [ministry leaders at Barrie] have moved to Ghana for a two year assignment in partnership with the national church-planting team there.
Ecclesiax FMC in Ottawa has been sending teams to northern Quebec for a number of years, partnering with aboriginal Christians to encourage wholeness and healing in several First Nations communities.
Trull’s Road FMC in Courtice, ON sent a team to Hyderabad, India this summer as part of the ongoing partnership between them, New Horizons FMC in Sarnia, ON, and the Hyderabad Mission District. This year’s team included retired Tyndale Seminary professor, Roy Matheson who conducted Spiritual Warfare seminars with pastors and lay leaders.
Speaking of Trull’s Road’s partnership in India, Pastor Barry Taylor suggests that “a lot of time can be spent in just getting things done locally towards the great commission. The trouble with that kind of thinking is that it creates too much selfishness, even if it is dealing with kingdom work. Seeing how as a church we can strive to be strategic and intentional about our kingdom work locally and globally keeps us from getting entrenched in our own problems and needs.”
Wesley Chapel, Toronto, ON and Northview FMC, Regina, SK have been partnering in Sri Lanka along with Mississauga Tamil FMC, for several years now. This summer’s team included 3 from Wesley Chapel and 4 from Northview.
Each of these partnerships has developed over a period of several years. Getting their local church vision aligned with ministry possibilities beyond their doors is the first step. But then diving into the risk-taking exploratory visits, developing workable partnerships between people of different cultures, then embarking on long-term investments of people and resources.
Sometimes churches are intimidated by the idea of developing an international partnership. Pastor Barry Taylor feels that “we are by no means perfect in this endeavour. We are striving to improve and be more effective, less self-focused. One of the best ways that we can be effective in battling this pull towards self has been to see where in the world God is at work and join him there. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit and some seasoned workers (like Pastor Doug Griffin of New Horizons, in Sarnia) we began a partnership with the Free Methodist Church in India, specifically the Hyderabad Free Methodist Mission District. Even though it is the furthest away our church has ever partnered, we are finding people’s hearts turning to see what they can do. They are seeing the world from a broader reality.”
“We have done two trips – one in September of 2004 when I travelled to Hyderabad with Doug Griffin (kind of a fact finding trip). This past August we had a team of 6 people go to resource and teach pastors there. We have given funds to support pastors, raised money to help purchase ministry property and helped develop existing property. This involvement, in turn, has helped us to see that God is at work around the world. It has been encouraging to know that our going and offering encouragement has blessed the church there. But perhaps in greater ways we are blessed by them and their incredible faith.”

Rev. Dan Sheffield is the Director Intercultural and Global Ministries for The Free Methodist Church in Canada