Movements in Partnerships:
I have not yet met a church or ministry organization that does not have an innate desire to move people along some form of the continuum toward maturity in Christ. The hard truth is, though, that most churches and ministry organisations do not have an existing plan on how to move people forward in their faith and in their ministry involvement to become multipliers in ministry and not only maintenance-driven. Many have written about one possible cause – a discipleship deficit – which continues to rob evangelicals in particular of missional people serving the purposes of God in a timely fashion. My diagram below, entitled the “Partnership Matrix,” illustrates the movement of people toward ministry involvement and multiplication. In this article, I will explore the various stages in the process toward multiplication and unpack several ministry inhibitors that remain as obstacles for believers in moving to the next stage of their growth in their conceptualisation, articulation, involvement in the missio Dei.
Most people that have grown up in evangelical churches around the world would appreciate the centrality of the Word and the quintessence of the atonement of Christ to the Christian faith and a need for repentance and conversion. These are important themes in the evangelical discourse. Many, however, have had a tainted understanding of mission and evangelism, believing that these tasks were either for the professional, gifted, or were to be in the realm of the pastorate. In other words, most evanglicals held no responsibility for these central aspects of the Christian faith. This has led to the current inertia evangelicals have experienced in church life in recent decades and a lack of engagement with their communities. Missions is for the missionary and evangelism is for the evangelist, distilling the role of Christians to pew warming and check writing! Paul speaks of the Church as the body of Christ and as being ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Cor. 12:27). Below I present five ministry inhibitors that become obstacles in seeing God’s mission fulfilled.
There is an evident deficit of discipleship in so many of our churches today. Along with this comes a weak, somewhat superficial, uninformed Christian faith that is prone to either Marcionism or misdirected activism. The current cultural inclination can be found in bestsellers like The Shack with its claims that "The Bible doesn't teach you to follow rules," God doesn't need to punish sin, and its portrayal of God's justice as a blood-thirsty God who runs around killing people all the time. Additionally, our culture is averse to the concept of suffering and remains uncomfortable with the concept of God’s wrath. It seems that in our world, people desire a Christianity where the attribute of God’s love eclipses all other attributes, especially God’s justice and power. We embrace a narrative that fosters spiritual ignorance and perpetuates baby Christians whom the writer to the Hebrews describes as dependent upon spiritual milk (Heb. 5:13). Perhaps the greatest ministry inhibitor to the mission is a lack of biblical discipleship.
For Christians to move from informed to interested in ministry and mission, pastors and church leaders need to overcome complacency– acceptance of the status quo. "A feeling of being satisfied with how things are, and not wanting to try to make them better." That is what Webster Dictionary tells us that complacency is, and when we associate that with our walk with Christ, it seems a little frightening, and is right where Satan wants us to be. If we convince ourselves that we have reached a point of satisfaction in which we are comfortable with our faith and do not feel the need to move any further toward pleasing God and getting out of our comfort zone, we have lost the battle, and have been deceived by the Enemy. When we believe that our spiritual life plays second fiddle to our life, we have been defeated. Complacency is the most dangerous place we can be as a believer. This is where we become lazy; this is where we become lukewarm; this is where we are deceived.
There are many well-meaning Christians who are not complacent, they often see the brokenness and immense need in our world, yet are not moved in their hearts to become concerned with gospel ministry or to prioritize their time and life accordingly. Many are still distracted by the many things in the world and by the curse of busyness. "For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I don't know which is better." This is what Paul wrote to Philippi in Philippians 1:21-22. Seeing the commitment and the drive to work and glorify the Lord is nothing new, and we also see it in Galatians 5:24 when he tells us "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to the cross and crucified them there." When we’re distracted, we’re not as easy to deploy for God’s purpose.
This is probably where the most goes wrong concerning mission and ministry. All other barriers previously presented have been overcome, yet frustration often leads people to disengage and allow life's busyness to distract them for a season. The most common frustration people experience:
- Lack of vision or purpose in leadership
- Critical spirits
- Controlling leaders
How can we foster a culture of serving and sending in our churches that utilizes the gift of the body of Christ? What can we change to enable people to serve rather than restrict people from ministry?
Partnership in the gospel is a marvelous thing and a necessary endeavour, yet it can also be hurtful and harmful instead of helpful. Our role as Christian leaders is not to create or foster dependency, but rather to multiply ourselves and empower others for ministry. We apply the principle found in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Pastoral co-dependency hurts everyone and the mission of God suffers in the end. The role of those serving as leaders and pastors in the church is to equip the body of Christ for works of service, not hog all the work to themselves. Each of us needs to be committed to this end if we are to see any significant change in our world.
On our own, we can only go so far! The Apostle Paul demonstrates an important principle of partnership in ministry and mission that gets the job done! The Global Network of Evangelists, alongside The Message Trust is launching Advance Groups worldwide. Will you join the movement? Do you have a desire to see many come to faith in Jesus Christ? Do you seek to encourage those around you to show and share their faith? If you are a leader in church, a pastor or an evangelist, Advance Groups are for you! Advance exists to promote and develop the calling of evangelists, and is committed to the proclamation of the gospel and the support of those who proclaim. Join the movement and download your free material here: https://www.advancegroups.org. We’re currently working at completing close on 20 translations and are already gaining traction in over a dozen countries so far. Connect with us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.