The 12 Partnering Basic Building Blocks
Devotional 1 - Sower and Reaper Rejoice Together - John 4:34-38
Jesus had selected 12 people to become his disciples and to eventually spread his ministry into the future and beyond Israel. One day while traveling, Jesus took these disciples through Samaria and they stopped outside the town of Sychar by the famous Jacob’s well. Jesus sent the disciples into the town to find food. When they returned, they found him in dialogue with a woman from the town who had come to the well to draw water. This event is well known and rich in meaning. I want to focus on one thought and apply it to our journey together as the people of God.
The disciples are puzzled by what they find, Jesus in frank dialogue with a woman from Samaria. After she leaves they urge him to eat some of the food they brought, and Jesus responds with the phrase, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Jesus then explains what he means.
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” John 4:34-38
Jesus speaks of a harvest that has already started, even before the disciples were sent into the world. Jesus places the coming assignment of the disciples in the context of a work already in progress. The harvest is not waiting for the disciples to complete their training before it starts. They will build on the work of others, and will benefit from the labor of those who came before them.
We are only a part of God’s work force and have been asked to do only a portion of the work. It is vital for us to understand this in our missions efforts. Much of the strife and competition we find in Christian missions comes from the wrong sense that it all depends on us, that nothing is done correctly apart from us, and therefore we hold the key to the success of God’s work. We hold a false sense of our own importance and responsibility which causes stress in us and in our relationships with others.
To this faulty perspective, Jesus seems to suggest: “Relax and be humble; your part is small and you are not ultimately responsible; I am. Honor the work of other harvesters, so that you can rejoice together.”
When we feel that the success of the harvest sits on our shoulders, we are anxious and unable to enjoy the fellowship of other workers. We are unable to value their contributions. Instead of seeing others as fellow-helpers in a harvest that God is bringing to completion, we see them as people who get in the way of our own work.
But Jesus says to us that the work was in progress before we came on the scene, and that many others are at work also. He wants us to be able to rejoice together and with the Lord of the harvest. Therefore, it is good to take time to honor each other’s work, to cooperate with one another, and to rejoice together in the victories along the way.
Lord, we thank you for saving us from a false sense of our own importance and a wrong sense of responsibility. We are sorry to have let this divide us, creating tension among us and showing the world a fragmented work force. Help us understand anew that we are only a part of the team, and that the ultimate responsibility for the harvest rests with you. We want to learn to work together in partnership. Please grant us the strength to lay aside our pride and preferences for the sake of your great harvest.
Alexandre Araujo—IPA Partners International
Devotional 2 - The Nehemiah Model of Partnership in Ministry - Nehemiah 4:20
“...wherever you hear the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
After the return of the Jewish exiles to Palestine in 538 B.C., they re- built the temple by 515 B.C. under the leadership of Zerubbabel. How- ever, the walls of Jerusalem remained in ruins for the next 70 years and the people remained in great distress (Neh. 1:3). Then Nehemiah, who was just a cup bearer in the palace of the Persian Emperor Artaxerxes in Susa, obtained the Emperor’s permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, promising to return by a specified date. The task was enormous. The walls were very large with respect to their breadth, length and height. But under his God-guided leadership, the Jews accomplished the task in the incredibly short time of 52 days, even under constant threat of surprise attacks by envious enemies.
I have always wondered how Nehemiah achieved this feat which would be difficult even with the super-technologies of today. A careful reading of the book of Nehemiah reveals some of his secrets. They may be summed up in two richly meaningful words “Our God.” “Our God” implies that the Jews were the people of God united together in him. This unity in and through the sovereign God of love accomplished the impossible. Stanley Jones insightfully observed that people who can say “we” and “our” instead of “I” and “my” will win the world.
A condition of achieving such unity is humble prayer on man’s part, especially the leaders. Nehemiah’s work was born in days of fasting, mourning and prayer (ch.1). The book says 11 times that he prayed before making any new move. (e.g. Neh. 2:4 – 5; 5:7) The book, which is autobiographical in form, repeatedly acknowledges that he succeed- ed “because the hand of my God was favorable to me.” (Neh. 2:12, 18) When the Jews achieved their aim, the nations around perceived the hand of God at work, rather than Nehemiah’s genius. His first secret then, was his life of prayer and dependence on God.
His self-effacement was shown in his actions. He gave up his rightful salary, lived on his own means and supported others, too. His was a life of sacrifice.
Another of his secrets was the delegation of authority and the apportioning of work to widely scattered groups and their leaders. The words quoted above as the subtitle of this devotion are his exhortation to those leaders concerning defense-preparedness. The passage suggests that God can accomplish his work even though his people are widely separated, provided they will rally instantly to the trumpet call. We cannot do it without God, and God will not do it without our united participation.
Nehemiah could not have achieved the feat without a large task force of volunteers (cf. Ps. 110:3), who “owned” it as their project. Note that the people could not even attempt the task until they joined together. Nehemiah strengthened their unity by eradicating social injustices (ch.5). Nehemiah’s role in all this was not that of a general but of a facilitator.
The God-given mandate of the church is the holistic development of all people. God is looking for servants who, like Nehemiah, will partner with him in this task of building his Kingdom, eradicating social injustice and inequality, and dispelling spiritual darkness.
Nehemiah is a model of the only strategy Jesus names for the evangelization of the world. Jesus says that when his disciples are united together perfectly and thus demonstrating the love of God, then the world will know Jesus as the Saviour sent by God. (John 17:19 – 23) Our part is to make a small beginning in our own limited spheres to- wards the accomplishment of this grand goal.
Lord, raise up an army of kingdom volunteers, who are united together in your love. I offer myself to be used for this purpose. In Jesus name, amen.
Prof. B.E. Vijayam
Coordinator of Training in Evangelism, Needs and Technology (TENT) Joshua Vision India
Devotional 3 - The Three C's of Partnership - Mark 3:13-19
This passage from Mark’s gospel gives us a snapshot of how Jesus went about his reconciling and restorative work. He went up the mountainside to pray, to commune with God the Father. Before he consulted with his disciples, he first took time to interact with the Father. Not only did Jesus prioritize communing with the Father, he called his disciples to commune with himself as God-in-the-flesh. He called them to “be with him.” This is the foundation of all Christian work and life. This is where our work starts but not where it ends.
Communion with God moved into community with the other disciples and commission into ministry. Jesus did not call his disciples one by one for private sessions on the mountain to give them their ministry orders. He called them to be with him as a group, to experience life together and to later go out in small groups. It is crucial to understand that Jesus did not skip directly from communion to their ministry commission as too often occurs in many mission efforts. “Just me and Jesus” is not what the Bible teaches. Jesus called the disciples to experience and reflect a new community found through life with him. With their individual identities intact, they were to be a group called to follow and point people to Jesus together. Their relationship with each other was as essential as the work that they per- formed for the benefit of the society.
When we move into a city, town or village to carry out our commission, it is essential that we live out this same pattern. We must commune with God and follow him according to this “community principle.” We must be in relationships of love, trust, interdependency, and mutual accountability with other members of the local church. Our personalities, gifts and skills must become interconnected to other members of Christ’s Body if we are to express the fullness of Jesus’ reconciling work for the world.
When the Kingdom of God, the reign and rule of God, manifests itself in an area, a new reconciled and loving community will emerge that works together to bless the society. In fact, evidence that followers of Jesus are living under the rule of God is their interdependent relation- ship with each other. Jesus always has a commission in mind, a good work to do. However, he intends that the commission will be known, confirmed, empowered and accomplished through the ongoing process of communion and community.
The apostle Paul was keen to see Jesus’ “Three C’s Approach” passed on to the next generation of Christians. To the Ephesians he reminds them, “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16) Growth of the body can only occur if the disciples keep in communion with Jesus (the source of life – “from him”), which as surely as night follows day, will lead to their commissioning to “work.” However, this commission will always be expressed in and through community. Paul’s major concern in this verse is that the disciples carry out their work in relationship to others of the community. In fact, he seems to be saying that “God’s work will only be done right if it is done God’s way, and that means by sharing of gifts and ministry expressions with other members of Christ’s body.”
Dear Holy Three-in-One God, Father, Son and Spirit, open the eyes of our hearts to see life and work as you intended in relation- ship with you and with one another. Grant to us the love and patience to guard our unity in the Spirit and not run off and do our work independent of other members of your Church. Help us see how and where and with whom we are to connect in your redeeming work. We offer ourselves to you and to each other, for your greater good to advance on the earth as it is in heaven. We ask this through the Lord Jesus Christ who has made us one. Amen!
President, Breakthrough Partners
Devotional 4 - A Lesson in Trust - Mark 6:6-13
Jesus appointed “the 12” as apprentices primarily to be with him but eventually to be sent out as his ambassadors to reach all people with the gospel (Mk.3:13-14). The context of Mark 6 reveals how Jesus himself, with respect to his own mission, was taken for granted and insulted by folks in his hometown (6:1-5). What was Jesus’ response? He chose to commission his disciples and sent them out to minister in his name to the poor and to those who had not heard of his kingdom.
Let’s consider how these workers were to accomplish Jesus’ mission. We will discover that the main lesson Jesus’ followers were to learn was to trust and demonstrate this trust by working together (6:6-13). There are three areas in which he teaches them, and us today, the vital need, intrinsic value and importance of partnership.
First, they were to learn to depend on one another (vs.7). Jesus sent them out “two by two” rather than to an “independent ministry”. Why? They were to be of mutual help and encouragement in times of danger, disappointment, and spiritual despondency. Since they shared the same source of empowerment and authority, teamwork was the obvious and efficient way forward. Certainly today as never before, personal morality and pastoral integrity are two key areas where ministers need to be accountable.
Secondly, they were to learn to ultimately depend on Jehovah
Jireh. Jesus’ strange instructions (vs.8-9) on the minimum baggage to carry served a crucial purpose: to remind them they were on God’s business, a short-term mission to the poor. Hence, they were to identify with the people and simplify their own lifestyles. This resulted in their total dependence on God’s providence and modeled to others a lifestyle of faith.
Thirdly, they were to learn to depend on the goodwill of others when they stayed in strangers’ homes. This takes tough trust: putting aside pride and meekly receiving the hospitality of “secular” people who perhaps may not respond positively to their message! Staying “in one place” would both promote contentment and avoid a competitive spirit in ministry. These disciples were to proclaim the Word and perform the works that Jesus authorized them to do. When they “shook the dust off their feet” symbolically they placed the responsibility on their hosts to respond to the gospel.
This eventful occasion clearly presents us with Jesus’ model for partnership in mission. Rather than an unhealthy independence or an impoverishing dependence there is an effective inter-dependence that enriches and empowers Christian outreach. Jesus himself was learning, and thereby modeling this as he depended on his feeble and fickle followers and entrusted them with his own mission and ministry.
Certainly there are many hindrances to building trust and making this kind of partnership work. Nevertheless, the challenge for the Church in our mission still remains. Our Lord Jesus entrusts us with the steward- ship of the gospel. We need to follow his model and make every effort to trust one another as we strive together for the kingdom. As Christians, let’s partner in ministry that the world may put their trust in the One who sends us, Christ the Savior of the world.
Our Gracious Father, We praise you for sending Jesus to show us your ways and for empowering us by your Spirit as we go into all the world to make disciples. Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow beings who live and die in hopelessness, poverty and hunger for the truth. Forgive our fears of one another and our cultural pride, which make it difficult for us to work together and potentially misuse our vast resources. Lord, deliver us from such arrogance and from our independent selves. May we serve one another and others with such gracious love that people will come to know Christ, in whom is life, peace and joy.
Rev. Dr. Chris Gnanakan
South Asia Institute for Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) Professor & Head of Department of Pastoral Theology & Counseling Bangalore, India
Devotional 5 - Help that Empowers - Acts 11:27-30
A famine in Jerusalem! What Christian wouldn’t be moved to help with that today? Apparently it sparked the same feeling of concern in 44 A.D., as we read in Acts 11:27-30:
“During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.”
The disciples, each according to his ability, compassionately gave what they could, in response to the call of God through the prophet Agabus. In doing so, they bridged quite a few differences, including language and culture. Their generous, loving response seemed so natural. They thought of those in need as brothers. The sense of being one family in Christ was the focus and the differences were no longer important.
It is fascinating how they went about it. “This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.” The church in Antioch selected Barnabas and Saul as the ambassadors to steward the gift. Two men, trusted by both sides and respected by all, were a really good choice for the job.
We know people like that today, people who seem able to represent one part of the world to another, able to gain the trust of both. We need them. There is so much misunderstanding and mistrust in our world. But God is still raising up people who can stand in-between and help both sides remember that we are brothers, that we are one family who can work together.
What did the Antioch church ask Barnabas and Saul to do when they arrived in Jerusalem with the gift? These were capable men. Surely they should have been involved in determining what to do next to meet the need, to make sure somehow that the gift was used well. But that isn’t what happened. Their task was simple. They were asked to turn over the gift to the “elders.” Maybe the church in Antioch felt the local elders knew best how to meet the needs of the people. Maybe they wanted to honor the church that God had established there in Jerusalem. I think it’s both of these things and more.
To those on the receiving end, that moment would have been very special. To realize that the church in Antioch wanted to help meet the needs in Jerusalem with no strings attached would have been such an encouragement. But beyond that, to know that the church in Antioch respected the ability of the leadership of the Jerusalem church to handle the task would have been empowering.
In our relationships with others, people often don’t feel empowered. They may feel deep down that we doubt they can do the job. And we often feel the need to remain in control. We tend to see what they don’t have more than we see what they do have. It happens both here and there, in our own families and in partnerships far away. We have something to learn from the church in Antioch, how to help our partners and empower them at the same time.
Lord, you have entrusted much to us, yet we struggle to trust others. Help us be more like you. Help us be like the church in Antioch. Help us be able to freely help with no strings attached. Let people around us feel empowered to do what you have called them to do.
Partners International—Director, Global Learning Exchange
Devotional 6 - In the Body of Christ - 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
This passage of Scripture tells us so much about what it means to be in the body of Christ.
First, verses 12-13 explain what qualifies us to be in Christ’s body. It’s not our race or ethnic origin. Nor is it our social status. We are told the qualification is being baptised by the one Spirit into the one body and being given the one Spirit to drink. Baptised by the Spirit is the mark of every Christian. We can identify it with being born of the Spirit (John 3:8) or being born again (1 Peter 1:23). Having the Spir- it of God immerses us into the Body of Christ. And receiving the Spirit to drink is the access that every Christian has to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Drinking the Spirit is what keeps my life in the body healthy.
Next, verses 14-19 speak to us of our value to the body of Christ. I may know I’m in the body of Christ, but I can still feel insecure about my role in it. Satan whispers, “You’re not an important part of the body” and I’m tempted to believe him. My unworthiness overwhelms me when I compare my meager abilities with greater gifts of others. I need to remember that my foot doesn’t stop being a part of my body just because it feels inferior to my more versatile hand. Equally my ear doesn’t stop being a part of my body when it compares itself unfavorably with my eye. They were all born as members of my body. If I’ve been baptised by the Spirit of God into the body, there’s no doubt about my membership or my value.
Enjoying our security in the body may lead us to be proud and insensitive to others. Verses 20-24 address this, reminding us that we’re only one part of a body that is made up of many parts. Satan may whisper to me about another, “He’s not an important part of the body.” Then I’m tempted to ignore another Christian’s value and consider him less significant than myself. But I need to think of inter- dependence not independence. Indeed, Paul reminds me that all parts of my body are essential to my well-being. God has designed his body just as he wants it with each part valuable and necessary to the whole. And because of our interdependence, when one part of the body is hurting, the whole suffers.
We are the body of Christ, says Paul, and each part is valued and important. But there is difference in our functions, as described in verses 27-30. My right index finger is probably the most useful part of my body, but its radius of action is less than 10cm by itself. If it allows my arm to move it however, it can pick up my cup which is almost a meter away. If it allows my feet to carry it into the next room it can find the right page in my Bible on a table more than 10 meters away. If it allows my feet to carry it onto an aeroplane, it can be of use to me on the other side of the world. What if my finger refused to move, insisting that its own 10cm radius was all it was called to serve? Similarly, we need the other parts of Christ’s body and must work together in partnership in order to be an effective, functioning organism.
Paul wraps up 1 Corinthians 12 by saying in verse 31, “And now I will show you the most excellent way...” This is an introduction to Chapter 13 which defines the most excellent way as “The Way of Love.” In defining love, Paul gives us a description of the inward nature, outward expression, and ultimate purpose of Christ’s body. The body of Christ is to live within the love of Christ, expressing that love to one another and to the world around us.
Lord, please help me to put aside my insecurity, my insularity, my insensitivity and my insubordination and to reach out in love to the brothers and sisters with whom you have called me to work for the extension of your kingdom and the glory of your name. Amen.
European Christian Mission International
Devotional 7 - Breaking Down Barriers - John 4
My favorite story in the life of Christ is his meeting with the Samaritan woman found in John 4. Samaria during Jesus’ time may be viewed as a metaphor for the political and cultural barriers that stand between the church and the lost and needy people outside its doors. And this is true whether the church is in Seattle, Washington, or in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (Seattle’s sister city). Jesus crossed such barriers, and challenges us to do the same. In this story, Jesus ignored protocol and made an all- important contact—through a simple request for a drink of water.
I especially like Jimmy Carter’s comments on this passage:
The gospels are clear that dividing people according to behavior, background, or other personal traits was never Jesus’ way. . . .
Jesus approached the Samaritan woman and asked, “Will you give me a drink?” This simple act was a startling demonstration against racial, gender, and religious prejudice.
For Jesus to drink from the Samaritan woman’s cup was a powerfully symbolic act of acceptance and friendship. Because Jesus broke down all racial, social, and religious barriers between them, this woman became a messenger around whom the villagers gathered to hear the Good News about a man they would soon know as “the Savior of the world.” The encounter between Christ and the Samaritan woman is one of the most gratifying examples of salvation in the Bible. This woman was given what she needed most: acceptance, forgiveness, and a new life. Christians and believers of every faith have a responsibility to help break down barriers based on race, gender, religion, and other differences. Jesus used just one cup of water to demonstrate the overcoming of prejudice. We have many opportunities to do the same.*
Isn’t that what the partnership movement is all about? We seek to break down barriers between us so that together we can serve the poor and the lost. Then we can, as Jesus’ disciples, look around us. We will see people languishing from spiritual thirst. Just as the Samaritan woman, ignoring any damage to her reputation, invited her neighbors to “come, see,” we can invite those outside a relationship with Jesus Christ to “come, see.” Surely we have no more to risk to invite others to “come, see” than this woman had. She shared her witness of Christ without concern for the reaction she might receive, or others’ perception of her.
Christian witness is a cooperative effort: The preparatory work of God through Christ joins with the believers’ witness of what Christ has done and is doing in the world. And just as we cooperate with Christ in this effort, we also need to cooperate with each other.
Notice how Jesus was prepared to engage this woman. How ready are we to engage the needy outside our circle of friends, outside our churches, outside our partnerships? We need to get outside our comfort zones and personally interact with the lost and needy. Jesus made himself ceremonially unclean by drinking from a Samaritan woman’s cup. How concerned are we about our own ceremonial cleanliness? When was the last time we had a conversation with a bum on Skid Row, or a marcher in a Gay Pride Parade? Our partnerships are not for ourselves, but to get us out to the people Jesus loves.
Lord, we have put up so many barriers to protect our comfort zones. Help us to get so outside our comfort zones that we can share a drink with those who send shivers up our spines.
IPA Senior Partner, Asia Region Breakthrough Partners
* Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Carter, Living Faith. New York: Random House. 1996. pp 187-190
Practical partnering tools
Partnering Principle # 1 - The Partnering Pyramid
Partnering Principle # 2 - The Partnering Phases
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Partnering Principle# 3 - Whats the difference between a Network, Partnership and a Movement?
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Partnering Principle # 4 - Heart of God - Biblical Foundations for unity and relationships in the Body of Christ
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Partnering Principle #5 - Facilitation Process and Facilitation Team
Partnering Principle#6 - Trust - Building and restoring trust, especially across cultures
Partnering Principle #7 - Friendships
Partnering Principle #8 - Collection Vision Creation
Partnering Principle#9 - Need for shared values and shared vision
Partnering Principle #10 - Conflict transformation
Partnering Principle#11 - Value of dialogue (especially in the exploration phase)
eePartnering Principle #12 - Benchmarks of a healthy collaborative relationship
Partnering Tip Talks
Jose de Dios - The Power of Bi-cultural facilitators in Partnerships - English
Willie Botha - The power of leading by example: Co-presenting over racial borders
Jose de Dios - The Power of Bi-cultural facilitators in Partnerships - Spanish
FAQ About Partnering
SHOULD ORGANIZATIONS FROM DIFFERENT CULTURES PARTNER TOGETHER?
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HOW LONG SHOULD TWO POSSIBLE PARTNERS KNOW EACH OTHER BEFORE WORKING TOGETHER?
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WHAT IS THE IDEAL NUMBER OF PARTNERS IN A PARTNERSHIP?
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IS IT NECESSARY TO SHARE FINANCES TO PARTNER WELL?
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