When Do Powerful Partnerships Help or Harm?

partnerships in disciple making movements

Pioneering is tough. We can feel alone and overwhelmed. Partnerships are sometimes a help. They can bring powerful solutions to the gaps in our own team. Or they can cause problems. Unwise partnerships in Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) may later become an obstacle.

I’ve been writing a series of blogs on DMM Obstacles. Check out some of the previous articles.

Obstacles will definitely come up as you pursue a DMM or Church Planting Movement (CPM). But some pitfalls are easily avoided.  Unwise partnerships in Disciple Making Movements is one of them.

Network Broadly – Partner Carefully

When coaching church planters in new places, this issue often comes up. My motto on partnerships is this- “Network with everyone, but partner carefully.”

Network with everyone, but partner carefully.”

Rushing Into Partnership Caused Trouble

When working in India, we were often approached by people who wanted to partner. They heard about our vision for the unreached. They heard we had many national workers who spoke the language. What they saw on our team, they liked.

Sometimes they were new to the area and looking for a way to get started. I’ve had countless meetings with potential partners over the years.

Rushing into partnerships always got me in trouble. At first, they seemed to understand what we were trying to do. Later, when the real issues came up, it became difficult.

I learned to start slow with those who want to partner. Even when it looks like it could be a powerful partnership that would help.

“Do not be unequally yoked…” 2 Cor. 6:14 NIV

While this verse is referring to marriage, the principle applies to any partnership. What does it mean to be “equally yoked” in working toward a DMM? It means you share the same vision and strategy.

There is a big difference between networking and partnering.

Networking has to do with connections, mutual learning, and relationship. A partnership has to do with a commitment.

Don’t be “unequally yoked” with someone who has a different strategy, different values, and a different vision. It will become an obstacle and a drain on your energy. It might initially provide things you need like money, friendship or team members. Eventually, it will cause problems.

Partnerships In Disciple Making Movements – Having The Same Mind

1) Kingdom Minded – Not Building A Church Or Organization.

Is their vision for multiplication of the Kingdom? Or the growth of their own organization or denomination?

There are many examples of organizations trying to “buy” churches in unreached areas. If they require you to attend their conferences, and all they give you is money…RED FLAG! Not a helpful partnership!

This is usually not obvious on the surface. It is a common problem though, so be cautious. Make sure you understand and discover: What conditions are attached to their help?

2) Like Minded – Vision and Strategy.

Carefully consider whether their vision and strategy match yours.

a. Do they understand your call to multiply generations of disciples and groups?

Many say they want that. In reality, they haven’t understood what it means.

Talk with them about:

-the priesthood of all believers

-simple church

-local believers leading the groups

-normal people baptizing others

-multiplication flowing through natural relationships

You might want to show them a generational chart.

b. Do they have any other “agenda” that is a high priority for them?

You have to think carefully about partnering with groups that have another agenda. Maybe their goal is to distribute thousands of Christmas boxes to the poor. Or their vision might be to help refugees.

Network with those who have other goals, but avoid partnerships. It will only drain your resources and energy. You will spend much time in meetings and activities that don’t take you closer to your goal of multiplying disciples and groups.

– Are they willing to “pay the price” of doing things differently from traditional churches in the area?

Many don’t understand that there is a cost to doing things in simple ways. When you allow ordinary believers to do the work of the ministry it often causes resistance and persecution. Will your partners stand with you when those things come up?

Find The Right Partner, Or Stay Single

I used to tell my daughters, “Don’t marry the first handsome guy that comes along. Better to stay single than be unhappily married.”

The choice of whom to partner with, whether for life or in ministry, is a serious one. It is worth being careful and not jumping into.

Otherwise, your partnership may become an obstacle for your DMM.

What do you look for (or avoid) in a partnership? Do you have a story about a partnership that worked well?  Please share in the comments below or on the Facebook page.

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