Kingdom-Minded Partnership: Hinderances

When the Great Commission is central in a partnership, many benefits are experienced that would otherwise be unknown had the partnering entities continued working individually. But gospel partnerships do not always work out. At times there are many hindrances to successfully partnering with others in the work of gospel ministry. Over the course of two blog posts I will be discussing the potential benefits and hindrances of kingdom-minded partnerships. The first post will look at the benefits of partnering with others in ministry; the second will look at the hindrances that can often make partnering difficult. READ PART 1 HERE

HIGH-RISK, HIGH-REWARD: REVISITED In my last post we discussed the benefits of engaging in kingdom-minded partnerships, noting that such partnerships are high-risk, high-reward. Because the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ is at stake, the potential reward is also great. But as with any profitable venture, high-reward also means high-risk. Partnerships are often hindered by personal and interpersonal factors, some of which we will discuss below. If you have ever tried to partner with another organization, you’ve likely experienced some of these hindrances. At times they can simply make partnering a challenge. Other times they can actually cause a partnership to dissolve. Partnering with someone is always a risk, but weighing the risk and understanding these potential hindrances can help you approach future partnerships (or navigate existing partnerships) with wisdom, discernment, and grace.

1. MISCOMMUNICATION Without a doubt, miscommunication is the number one hindrance of all partnership efforts. Sometimes it expresses itself in bad administration and leadership structures, such as misunderstandings about who is making decisions or even uncertainty as to how decisions are made in the first place. Other times miscommunication expresses itself in the context of cultural differences. Clearly there will be a communication barrier in international partnerships. But there is also a communication barrier in domestic multicultural partnerships. Wherever differences exist along social, demographic, socio-economic, and ethnic lines, communication will potentially break down. It is imperative for effective administration and communication to be implemented on every level if healthy kingdom-minded partnerships are desired.

2. HIGH COSTS Partnerships always require an expenditure of resources.  Money will almost always be required.  Energy will certainly be spent.  Time will be sacrificed. Like any good thing, partnerships will cost you something. Some individuals and organizations make the mistake of spending too much money, time, and energy on their partnerships. Some pastors are so busy forging partnerships that they neglect their families, their own spiritual lives, and their congregations.  But partnerships can be hindered both by overspending and by withholding resources. Some individuals and organizations refuse to forge partnerships because of the cost. They might be tight with money, time, and energy, or simply unwilling to do what it takes to make a partnership happen. Whatever the case, it is important to evaluate the strategy of any partnership. Is it being hindered in any way due to a neglectful or excessive approach to resource expenditure? Can money, time, or energy be spent in a more efficient manner? With clear communication and an effective strategy, these questions can help reduce the negative impact cost can have.

3. BAD PAST EXPERIENCES We all have past experiences that hinder our ability to buy into future (or even present) partnerships. If you’ve been burned in the past by a bad partnership, it is easy to become skeptical of any type of partnering. “Do they really want to partner for the sake of the gospel, or do they just want our money?” you might ask. Although this is a legitimate concern, we need to evaluate our hearts and determine the reasons for our lack of trust. We must differentiate between healthy skepticism based on legitimate concerns, and sinful cynicism, which is an unqualified lack of trust often accompanied by bitterness. Bad experiences from the past have the potential to bring out the cynic in all of us. But what cynicism often reveals is that we have put too much trust in our fellow man, and too little trust in God. When we expect something of others that only God can provide, we set ourselves up for failure. Even the best churches and organizations are full of sinful men. If we expect our partnerships to come through for us in ways that only God can, we will always be disappointed. But if we build our partnerships knowing that only God is unwaveringly faithful and that our acceptance is based only on Christ’s righteousness and not our performance, we will be freed to deal graciously with our partners, even when they fail to meet expectations.

4. Theological and Methodological Differences This can be a major issue. If the gospel is not at the center of a given church or organization, or if they cannot articulate a gospel consistent with Scripture, then you should not go through with a proposed partnership. But oftentimes partnerships do not work out, not because of disagreement over the gospel, but because of disagreement over issues of secondary or tertiary importance. We have to ask ourselves if secondary and tertiary theological and methodological differences are worth dismantling a partnership or inhibiting future partnerships. We must always remember that the gospel is primary. It alone is of first importance. However, secondary and tertiary issues must also be discussed in order to evaluate the things that are more and less important when partnering.

5. PRIDE, POWER, AND PRESTIGE Pride, power, and prestige are all sinful motivations that serve as hindrances to kingdom-minded partnerships.  As a result, there tends to be a virtual ladder that exists in Christian ministry.  Some individuals will do whatever is necessary to climb this ladder, making attempts to get noticed, to become well known, or to establish authority over and above others.  Sadly, the end to which many pastors toil and strive is simply to build their own personal kingdoms. The landscape of Christian ministry among churches can often resemble a turf war, with different theological camps or churches seeking to colonize as much territory as possible.  We must fight the temptation to view our churches and ministries as our own. If you are building your personal kingdom in the name of working for the kingdom of God, then you need to repent.

6. SPIRITUAL WARFARE The final hindrance is the reality of our adversary. Though we may not speak of him much in our circles, Satan is real, and he hates the Great Commission, church planting, discipleship, and healthy partnerships.  At every turn Satan will oppose gospel growth.  We must anticipate the resistance we will encounter and continually return to the gospel to rest firmly in our faith.  The threat we face is real and we must not be naïve to Satan’s attacks against our efforts to partner for the gospel. First Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” Realize that our adversary is real, and prepare yourself for the warfare he will wage against your partnership efforts.

CONCLUSION With grace, patience, and right expectations, kingdom-minded partnerships can withstand even the toughest of hindrances. Though the struggle is real, and hindrances and hardships can be expected, the reward of partnering and persevering for the sake of the gospel far outweighs the risk involved.

What hindrances have you experienced in partnering for the gospel? How did you overcome them?

Chasteen_crosspointJeremy Chasteen is the College Pastor at Crosspoint Church in Clemson SC and serves as the Director of Generation Link. He has a passion for developing the next generation of spiritual leaders (2 Timothy 2:2) in the home and church.  He also has a passion for the church to effectively evangelize the lost and disciple people to maturity in Christ. Jeremy holds a BA from East Carolina University and an M.Div from SEBTS. Jeremy greatly values and loves his family.  He married Liz in 1999 and they have four children.
UnityZach Nelson