History: Historical Development of Partnerships Between Alliance Ministries
The question proposed is, “Describe what a healthy progression in the development of relationships between a sending agency/mission and a national church might look like? After reading this week’s reading assignments I saw the four stages of relationship building by W. Harold Fuller compelling (Readings in Alliance History and Thought, compiled by Kenneth L. Draper. 2009, Ambrose University College, (101). These stages are: pioneer, parent, partner, and participant.
In the pioneer stage the agency/mission workers would have to find a national need which could open the door for a relationship and bridge the gap between linguistics, cultures, and possibly the animosity towards westerners and the Christian presence in their communities. The sending agency/mission would need to establish the plan, funds, workers, and prayer support team which would see this outreach to a lost people group to its conclusion. As a team each part of the team must pray for the Holy Spirit to open the doors and minds of the people so the Gospel can be shared, the lost people may be saved, and a full functioning national church would result in the Gospel message being heard and followed.
The pioneer stage must also go in with the founding principles of the Alliance’s DNA, the Fourfold Gospel message. They must be ready to teach Christ centered reasoning and not debate nonessential questions or theories. We need to stay focused on A.B. Simpson’s goal which was to keep the focus on Christ while ushering in the presence of God so that we can be a part of fulfilling Matthew 24:14 and the urgency to usher in the King, Jesus. With this in mind the agency/mission team can be ready to prepare the new church to have an attitude of missionary work through developing a healthy, praying, Christ-centered, and Biblically based purpose driven agenda.
Stage two is the Parent stage. Just as the natural parents teach their offspring and nurture and develop their moral values, the agency/mission team must nurture their spiritual offspring. This may require learning to read and write a new language, teach words which are biblically based but not ever heard in their own language. There may be cultural or traditions which include sacrificial or blood practices which oppose the Gospel message. The need for wisdom and God’s intervention in these situation is imperative. The prayer team must be made aware of them so they can intercede for the agency/mission team.
Stage three is Partner stage, only after the children are mature enough to enter adulthood or spiritual maturity can the agency/mission team drop the parent mentality and become a partner. The partner stage helps develop the church by coming alongside as a coach or elder brother to form, organize, and chose leaders. The partner stage helps develop the knowledge which was taught in the parent stage into a functioning church with its own finance committees, worship, evangelism, mission, discipleship teams, and makes their own decisions. I believe this stage may be the stage which can cause the most irritation between the new church and the agency/mission team as the parent role may be hard to let go.
The fourth stage is the Participant stage. This stage conveys a side by side effort by both the new National church and the agency/mission team to work together. The agency/mission team members may be asked to participant in decision making or just be asked for their experience and knowledge to aid the church in their decision making process. The agency/mission team must realize they might not even be heard or their input considered for now they are just participants. This is part of the evolving relationship but may be the place where the team members may see the fruit of their labor glorify God and feel the sense of God’s love and joy in their hearts. Most missionaries may never get to see the fruit of their labor. The ones who make it to this stage can fell the fulfillment of their labor and God’s will to bring the Gospel to all nations, teaching them to observe all that Jesus has taught them. This part of the relationship stage reflects on the fact that A.B. Simpson did not consider the missionary presence as permanent.
This journey is a relationship driven mission which must include the seeking of God’s will and purpose. There will be trials and tribulation through learning and growing together. The essential foundation will ultimately be the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the invitation of the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of the people, and God’s will be done. The agency/mission team must build on this foundation with committed people who will see the mission to its end. Brazil accomplished the three self’s of self-supporting, self- propagating, and self-governing by determination to take the “whole gospel to the whole world” (Smith-Lane article). The Brazilians trained international workers to win Brazil to Christ, planted churches, and sent out missionaries. Their success was instilled by the C&MA international workers who taught them to plant, send and train leaders. They even found a common denominator to reach out to other cultures, soccer. In today’s western culture I believe this is the new challenge which can help make reaching lost people groups difficult. Let us therefore pray for laborers which will be committed to the end for the harvest is great and ripe. If we wait too long, the harvest will become rotten and spoil. It will end up in the fire instead of the Master’s chambers where it will be fit for good use.