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Going Deep—Together

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One day, at the Lake of Gennesaret, Simon, the fisherman, allowed Jesus to step into his boat and take it a short distance from shore in order to better address the pressing crowd (Luke 5:1-3). By the end of this account, we see a group of exhausted fishermen doing as Jesus directed them: “Put out into deep water, and let down your nets for a catch” (v. 4). Upon doing so, they found their nets full to overflowing, and partners were called to help bring in the fish.

These men depended on each other. They had a relationship that, over time, had evolved as a result of shared lives, common goals and mutual trust. Contracts weren’t necessary, but a deep commitment to one another and sharing a desired outcome were essential.

Partnerships between U.S. churches and overseas ministries can produce situations that are similar to Simon’s predicament. As relationships are formed, lives are shared and common goals are established—with powerful results for both sides.

The Alliance recognizes several key elements in a good partnership. Through Partner Care churches come alongside workers to help in various ways. Strategic Prayer involves standing with each other before the Throne. Doing Our Share means giving financially to support people and ministries. In Going There, short-term trips contribute to the shared strategies of the partners. And by Staying Aware, partners keep up-to-date with one another.

A partnership works best at the grassroots level, where there is a natural connection. The most likely link is between an Alliance church or district and an international worker with whom they already have a good relationship. Where there is that bond of mutual respect and trust, there is a good foundation for a partnership.

Another source is a church looking for an intercultural ministry that corresponds with what it is doing in its own city, building partnership on a natural base of understanding that comes with common goals. In some instances a church may prefer to have something in written form, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that spells out what is expected. But under normal circumstances, the strong bond and drive between the church and the overseas team and/or project develops naturally.

Most partnerships begin with a focus on either people or a project. But, as in all of life, changes come to relationships. People move on to other things, a church’s interests change or the project is completed. Rather than let a relationship come to a skidding halt, I suggest that while a partnership ought to initially focus on people or a project, don’t limit it to just that. Explore other things the field or the team is doing where your partners minister.

Look at a funnel. We always see it as a large reservoir that channels down to a narrow spout. However, flip the funnel over and observe the small spout. Think of that opening as the people you’re partnering with, the project that you’re involved with. Keep that as the focus of your partnership. And do you know what? If you pull that spout (the partnership) closer to your eye, you can see beyond that opening to a wide variety of ministries that are taking place in the larger end of that funnel. That’s the field, the team that your partners are a part of.

Partnerships should be Spirit led and relationship based. At the root of a partnership should be a common bond, similar goals and a sense of trust. It should be beneficial for growth not only in an overseas context but also for the local church.

While approval for partnerships is not necessary, district leadership, as well as field and regional leadership, should be aware that they exist. Leadership can often provide input and suggestions to help the partnership grow in positive ways. And while the Office of Ministry Partnerships no longer exists at the National Office, help is always available from your district office, your district mobilizer, and other church leaders as well as field or regional leaders. The newly formed office of Global Link is also available for any assistance you may need.

Trusting in the Lord’s command to “put out into deep water,” let’s fish for men with our partners—on both home and distant shores. I know we will be “astonished at the catch of fish.” Let’s keep casting our nets through partnering!

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