It goes without saying that the work of the Church is to spread the glory of God among the nations through the proclamation of the gospel. And ultimately this should result in the planting of local churches. This should be every church’s heartbeat and passion. Doing the work of missions is however not easy. It requires the sacrifice of our human, material and financial resources, and it can only be done if there are healthy partnerships. We learn a lot from Paul and the early church believers on how to partner in the work of missions. For instance, Paul writes to the Philippians and says:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Phil. 1:3-5)
A study of the word, which is translated “partnership” and sometimes translated as “fellowship,” reveals that it has a richer meaning than the English words. It is a very practical and intimate word, bringing with it the idea of interaction, communion, partnership, participation, sharing, contribution, etc. It is the idea of a business partnership where all parties put in all the necessary resources and sacrifices in order to achieve the same goal, in this case, the furtherance of the gospel.
This means that there are people who are going and are being sent into the mission fields. Churches should be ready and willing to send men, women and families to areas where the gospel has not reached with the goal of planting churches. By implication it means people should be answering the call to go to the mission field. It is concerning how as Christians we simply want to group ourselves in one place and have numbers instead of sending men to plant churches. For gospel partnerships to take place, missionaries have to be sent.
As missionaries are sent to various places, they will need a team to work with. Paul had an ever-growing team working with him, comprising individuals like Barnabas, Silas, Luke, Timothy, Titus, Sosthenes, Tychicus, Mark, Demas, etc. There were couples like Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18), and ladies like Tryphena, Tryphosa, Lydia, and Phoebe (Rom. 16:12-13). The ladies helped with hospitality, finances, communication, follow up work, etc. In our time, there could be IT specialists, builders, nurses and doctors etc. Different people could use their skills to partner with those on the ground to ensure the smooth spread of the gospel.
Yet, the partnership that Paul was referring to in Philippians is at another level. It is the sacrificial financial and spiritual commitment to support the people on the ground. As we send missionaries, they need sustenance, and those who remain should be faithful to praying for them and giving so that their livelihood is taken care of. It is here that believers reveal their true commitment to the work of missions.
Such partnership should also exist between churches of like faith. The work of missions is such a huge task that it should be a combined effort of churches. A particular work may be the initiative and responsibility of one church yet done with the support of sister churches. So while some churches may not have the capacity to plant churches, they can still be involved in the work by supporting a church with the capacity. As such no church has an excuse for not being involved in the work of missions.
The church must be engaged in the work of missions. In order to do so effectively, there is need for practical and strategic partnerships between those who are sent and those who remain and between churches of like mind. Are you playing your role in the work of missions?