Questioning Church Plant Partnerships
Many of you reading this blog, like me, are a part of a local church that preaches the Gospel and makes disciples of Jesus. And, many of your churches, like mine, are sending teams of people overseas to spread the Gospel to the nations. But what are you doing to spread the Gospel in North America? According to the North American Mission Board (NAMB), an estimated 259 million people in the United States and Canada stand at enmity with God, daily storing up His wrath upon themselves (Rom 2:5). Why? Tragically, because they have not repented of their sins and trusted Jesus as Lord of their lives. They are living in darkness (Rom 1:18-23). They are dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). They need Jesus (Acts 4:12). What are you doing to reach the 259 million here who need the Gospel?
Last spring, the Lord led our church to pursue a partnership with a church plant through the NAMB Send strategy. Previously, we had taken short-term mission teams to Mississippi, Alabama, Illinois, Tennessee, and our own state of Kentucky. However, we were burdened to take the next step and find a church plant to partner with. Over the next four months we embarked on a journey that led us to partner with a plant in Columbus, Ohio. Coming to this decision was no small task, so I would like to share with you five questions your church should consider as you seek to partner with a church plant.
5 Questions Your Church Needs To Consider:
1. Where can we maximize our resources in a partnership? Distance was the primary consideration for us in this regard. We began by drawing a radius of a four hour drive around our church. We did this because we knew that if we kept it within four hours we would be able to send teams of people to the church plant for short trips, with little notice if the need arose, and for minimal cost for participants. As you extend the distance from your church, the cost of travel increases and it becomes more cost prohibitive for individuals and families within your church to go. So, what is the maximum distance from your church that you feel you can take teams and help your church plant on a consistent basis?
2. What are we prepared to contribute in a partnership? There are three areas in which church plants need the assistance of an established church—prayer support, financial support, and the sending of teams. It is beneficial, for both the established church and the church plant, if you know in which of these three areas you are prepared to contribute. We knew we wanted to be fully involved through prayer, giving, and sending, so we were able to tell potential partners this up front and find out what kind of help they would need from us in each of area. Knowing this ahead of time will allow you to gain a better understanding of how you can help the church plants you speak to during the process.
3. In what stage of the church planting process do we want to be involved? This was our first partnership with a church planter, so we really had no idea what to expect and certainly did not feel we could offer guidance to a church plant that was just starting. However, we also wanted to be involved in a plant that was still in need of some serious help. So, we found a plant that we felt was far enough along that they could help us learn to be an effective partner, but who would also benefit from our partnership as well.
4. Are we like-minded with the leadership of the church plant? Different local churches have different theological leanings and philosophies of ministry, although all of us should be built upon and centered around the Gospel. With that in mind, we wanted to partner with a church that was like-minded with us. This is important because your people will be working alongside the church planter and neither of you need to be worried about what the other is teaching or how you are carrying out ministry. This is not to say that you must agree on every little point, but you should have a common understanding of where you each land theologically and philosophically.
5. What demographic is our church seeking to reach with the Gospel? There are two important factors to this consideration: First, what demographic do we have experience working with? Second, what demographic would most benefit our church to work among? For example, our church is positioned in a middle-income community but we do a lot of ministry with lower income people in our community and in Peru. So, we decided to partner with a church that allowed us to work with both of these demographics so that we could use our past experience. In addition, we felt that our people would gain ministry ideas from the church plant that we could incorporate into our own ministry to our community.
There is certainly a lot to consider as you consider a church planting partnership. I trust, however, that the Lord will guide your way as you seek to send your local body throughout North America for the advance of the Gospel.
Author: Todd Meadows, Grace Baptist Church, Somerset, KY