The realities of world missions require partnership—across national boundaries, spanning different cultures, and between rich and poor. How do we work together in ways that respect our differences yet bring tangible effects? How do we partner so that the rich and powerful do not overwhelm the weak? How do we partner so as to give honor to God through loving "family" relations? Christianity Today senior writer Tim Stafford interviewed Valdir Steuernagel, a Brazilian pastor and theologian, and vice president of Christian commitments at World Vision International. His roles expose him to the church in scores of countries around the world.

Why does partnership matter?

Jesus tells us very clearly that the gospel message is a message of community. Paul says the same in his letters. The gospel is never an individual enterprise. In the same way in which we are called to preach the gospel and serve the poor, we are called to build community. To be a community of the gospel is never an option but always a mandate. Jesus tells us clearly that this is so important, he is praying heartily for it.

Something I have been trying to learn is that God himself is community. It's beautiful, and I am fascinated by it. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are a community, and they model community for us. The prayers of Jesus to his Father are amazing. What the Father tells the Son is deep and loving: "You are my beloved Son." The way Jesus talks about the Spirit coming is warm and intense: "I'm leaving but the Spirit is coming." The Trinity is a community that models for us how to get along, how to be interdependent, how to keep our own specificity without the sense of competition.

We are not simply talking about a pragmatic modus ...

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