Partnering with local churches is so important, but it can be tricky. Sometimes we can end up taking over like the kid who’s determined to get an A in chem-lab despite her remedial lab partner. We think, “This (whatever) needs to go faster, smoother, prettier. If only they’d listen to my ideas and just do them, we would ace this.”
But the truth is, when we outsiders give our ideas and our resources, we aren’t partnering with the Bride of Christ. We’re trying to take over for the Bride Groom. Really–who should they be depending on, looking to for wisdom and provision, thanking and praising when all is said and done? Who knows what’s best for them? Who defines their calling and ministry? Who has power to transform? Not me. Not a donor. Not a church a thousand miles away or a short-term team. Not an NGO.
True partnership with local churches means making ourselves smaller so that they can flourish in every area. So that they can have ever deepening experiences of the love and power of their Savior. True partnership often feels like “not doing much”–and then we have to remind ourselves that it’s not about us and how much we do. It’s about being the Body of Christ together. It’s not at all like acing chem lab.
All of our RW programs seek this kind of partnership with local churches. Ending Gendercide has discipled dozens of churches in the biblical truth about the value of women. The Create Commission explored through art what it means to love the city in partnership with an urban church. In His Image seeks to train local churches in how to minister to people living with disabilities. The list goes on.
But TCT provides, perhaps, the clearest and most lived-in examples of the power of partnering with churches. After all, it’s pretty much the only thing they do.
TCT offers biblical and practical training to churches, but no outside resources. We leave it up to the churches to identify their communities’ needs, to seek God, and to make a plan that would solve the problem and show God’s love. While they do all that, a Local Facilitator gives them encouragement and prayer, always reminding them of what they’ve learned and pointing them back to Christ when they lose their way or get bogged down.
Sure it’s slow. It’s messy. It’s rarely pretty. And it hardly ever aligns with what we would have come up with. But it’s *the only way*. Because ultimately God gets the glory. Churches are strengthened. And lives are transformed.
Here’s a “see what I mean?” story…
After studying TCT Module 1, 60 people from one church in Southeast Asia decided to build a road. Their community was isolated in a mountainous jungle area. The lack of a road made it nearly impossible for people to sell crops at any market, for school teachers to get to their village or for people to access other services, like hospitals, when they needed them. So, the church decided that by carving a road through the jungle they could show their community God’s love. In 12 days of hard work with hand tools, they completed a road that was about seven and a half miles long and five feet wide. Wide enough for motorbikes and hand-pulled carts loaded with crops.
The local government officials were very surprised by the road, because they had called for people to work on a road many times, but no one had responded. Why did the church suddenly volunteer for the job? They thought some outside organization must have paid for the project without authorization. The officials interrogated the church leaders, but they answered, “No one gave us money. We did all of this because we learned from TCT and wanted to obey God’s Word.”
Once they realized that the church wasn’t getting money from outsiders, the officials went from suspicion to wanting to support the church for its good work. They promised to present the work to higher officials and request for them to send a bulldozer to widen the road. Teachers, border soldiers and government officials in this area all benefitted from the road, so they all suddenly became very supportive of the church.
When the TCT Local Facilitator visited this village, he came across some teachers on his way to the church. Assuming he was a visitor from a different village, the teachers asked whether he noticed anything special here. When the Local Facilitator answered that he saw nothing special, the teachers proudly replied, “They have a nice road. Does your village have a beautiful road like this one?” They even boasted that it was the church who did all the work for 12 long days.
All the while, they didn’t realize that they were talking to the trainer who initiated this work here. Only when people from the church came and greeted the Local Facilitator did the teachers realize they knew each other. They asked the Local Facilitator if he is the church’s director, but he replied, “We are brothers and sisters in Christ. I came here to teach them the Bible. I am not their director.” Seeing that God had used the road to soften their hearts, the Local Facilitator then shared the Gospel with the teachers.
Does your church have missionaries or teams that work with churches in the majority world? If not, why not? If yes…How have you seen the partnership glorify God and build up His Bride? What has been hard? Have you ever stepped in and wished you hadn’t? Have you ever been frustrated by your local church partner?
Jesus, please reveal Your heart for Your Bride. Help us to love her better and to partner with her well. Be glorified in your church around the world.