In my last blog, I defined partnerships in the International Missions (IM) context as cooperation between IM and other organizations working internationally. Now, I want to focus on some principles we use when working in partnerships.
All participate. In the previous post, I mentioned that in a partnership, everyone contributes something (personnel, finances, expertise, labor, or materials) to achieve a common goal. A partnership is not a handout. Partners work together. The type or level of participation might not be the same, but everyone contributes what they have to offer. The seminary in Cuba had a need for renovating the women’s dorm and finishing out the second floor. IM put together a project, FWB Foundation provided the funds, and Cuba and The Hanna Project (THP) provided the labor.
Interdependence. In Western culture (especially North America and Europe), people are brought up to be independent. Each individual is expected to become autonomous and self-sufficient as possible. Though bearing some merit, when pushed too far, autonomy doesn’t resemble biblical teaching. The New Testament persistently admonishes Christians to a life of mutuality (see the “one anothers”) and community. The biblical principle is more one of interdependence than independence. Partnerships allow us to practice this principle.
Empower national believers. As we work with believers from other countries and people groups, we want to empower them and enhance the national church’s capacity to be effective in evangelism, discipleship, church-planting, training, and missions. We do not desire to control others but to work together as partners in ministry.
Avoid dependency. As we work in partnerships and empower believers in other countries, our goal is to increase their capabilities without creating dependency. Doing things for others they should be doing for themselves does not help. To the contrary, it hinders their ability to develop and grow.
Work through national associations. Most of our partnership projects are with Free Will Baptist works in other countries. Over several decades, FWBs, through IM, have sent missionaries to do pioneer evangelistic work, plant churches, disciple new believers, and train leaders. In places like Brazil, Panama, Cuba, Ivory Coast, India, and South Korea, we have mature churches with mature leaders. They have formed national associations, making our continual presence unnecessary in most of these countries. We want to respect those associations and strengthen the work as a whole. When we partner with a national association in another country, we sit down with the national leadership to study together what is most beneficial for the whole work.