Partners in mission and ministry

To Local Church Elders

Harold L. Lee is the author of this article to local church elders.

The Bible gives several partnership images to enrich our understanding of who comprises the church and what is its purpose. As a pastor or elder in your local church, it is important for you to understand the reality of this partnership and its implications for your congregation.

Webster's Dictionary defines partnership partially as "a joint interest. A contract between persons to join their money, labor, skills, goods, etc." As Christian stewards we are in spiritual partnership, joining our interest, our talents, our possessions, and our money with God's great power. Experiencing salvation by faith in the grace of Christ enlists us in active partnership with Him. We are "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). And through this practice of faithful stewardship, what wonders may be wrought in the world!

Partnership together in Christ

Partnership with God and Christ involves a "we-with" relationship. The word "we" speaks of togetherness. It portrays that mutuality and community called for in plural pronouns such as "ours" and "us." Husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs., are "we" words--partnership. "With" is a preposition meaning "alongside of, in the company of, as associate of, by means of, or in the keeping or care of." The baby Jesus was called Emmanuel, meaning "God with us" (Matt. 1:23).

So both "we" and "with" are relational words. We are partners with God in bringing the good news of His kingdom into real world experience (Matt. 28:19, 20). In the New Testament, mostly in Paul's writings, we find 45 uses of "with" preceded by a verb to describe the church community's relation to God.

Think of these "we-with" relation ships between Christ and His followers: We have been baptized with Him (Col. 2:12).

  • We have been crucified with Him (Rom. 6:6).
  • We live with Him (2 Cor. 7:3).
  • We die with Him (2 Cor. 7:3).
  • We are raised with Him (Eph. 2:6).
  • We are glorified with Him (Rom. 8:17).

Clearly, the "we-with" relationship links the Christian and the church community to the events of Christ's life and work. Some of Paul's "we-with" statements describe the believer's linkage with Christ in Christian service or mission: We are "fellow prisoners" (Rom. 16:7).

  • We are "fellow workers" (Rom. 16:21; Col. 4:11).
  • We are "fellow soldiers" (Phil. 2:25) with one another.

Questions raised

The "we-with" dynamic also raises basic questions: How do we as members of a church say "we" to one another? How do we say "we" to the mission of Christ? How do we act in His continuing ministry to the lost?

Christian mission and ministry involve all the people of God. We are bound together in a partnership that involves the human, spiritual, and material resources of all Christians and all churches. Together we share a responsibility to serve the needs of people.

Partnership in the gospel

In Philippians 1:5 Paul speaks of our "partnership in the gospel" (NIV). "Partnership" (koinonia) beautifully describes the mutual ministry between the local church and the local community. In other words, a church that is faithful to the New Testament pattern must embark on a ministry and a mission to its own immediate geographic setting and also support mission and ministry throughout the world. Mission is both local and global. Ministry also is both local and all over the world. Wherever there are believers, there is partnership in mission and ministry.

Elements of mission support

This partnership requires many forms of support, especially:

1. Dependence on God. Our mission is a partnership in which God is always the primary actor. The church marches at Christ's command. It is empowered by His Holy Spirit. That conviction should give every believer as well as the church body itself courage and confidence in the face of difficulty.

2. Prayer. The Christian mission has always moved on the wings of prayer. The early believers were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost after days of devoting themselves to prayer.

3. Giving. The believer and the church must be enthusiastic stewards of human resources. Every baptized believer is saved to serve, to be a minister for Christ, reaching out to others in daily life. Each person is entrusted with unique gifts that are essential to a healthy, functioning body of Christ in its ministry in the world.

In summary, all of our individual and congregational resources--human, spiritual, and material--must be shared with the whole world. God wants us to invest not only our money but our prayers, our talents, our energies, and our concern for the lost. Local lay elders, through teaching and example, can do much in their churches to foster this vital partnership.

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Harold L. Lee is the author of this article to local church elders.

February 1993

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