Partnership development is the term in vogue these days for what once was known as deputation. But are we using it honestly? Does it really represent what we’re trying to do? Is it a nice theory that is all but impossible to apply?
It seems to me that, much of the time (if not most) when we talk about partnership development we are really talking about fund raising. Missionaries who are expected to raise their own support often view it as a necessary evil at worst, and an unfortunate inconvenience at best. (Your mileage may vary.)
Included in the effort to raise funds is the desire to solicit prayer support. We expect those who invest their dollars to care enough to invest their prayers as well. But sometimes the idea that comes across is, “If you can’t afford to give money, at least you could pray.”
These scenarios do not depict biblical partnership.
Although we in North America talk much about partnership, in reality we’re talking about sponsorship.*
What we are really trying to garner is support. Sponsorship. We offer to go and do the work if others will offer to pay and pray. While supporters may be truly valued, they are not often treated as true partners. And the idea of living on support—that’s a dicey topic for another day.
We offer people three options for being a part of our team: pray, give, or go. What we should be inviting them to do is pray AND give AND go.
True sending partners will pray as much as those they send. They will give at the same level of sacrifice. They will go in person, when practical, and in spirit elsewise. They share the same vision, the same goals, the same passion.
Partners are joined at the heart.
And what are we doing to actually develop those partners? That’s a topic for tomorrow…
*Ron Blue, quoted in The Sending Church Defined, by Zach Bradley, p. 112