I recently published the majority of this article on our missions blog, but I thought it would be worth sharing here as well. “Partnership” is a word that I have connected with missions for some time now, but through our recent mission trip to Chanku Waste Ranch in South Dakota, the idea of partnership has been stretched far beyond anything I would have anticipated. In addition to our six-year partnership with a church near St. Louis, we joined a team from Indiana consisting of two churches and two additional churches that were staying at the camp and serving in work teams at the camp and around the reservation. We thought we had more than enough “partnership” to go around; however, God knew just what we needed. We had a couple of team members that had to drop in the week before the trip, but the Indiana team helped to fill gaps and probably the greatest role of all: prepare meals for the entire week!
“Partnership” is mentioned in the English New Testament only three times, twice of which refer to ministry and are found in Philippians. One describes a financial partnership (Philippians 4:15) and the other partnership in the gospel in Philippians 1:3-5:
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
I was surprised to notice that “partnership” isn’t a word that stands by itself; it’s a translation of koinonia or “fellowship.” In other words, partnering together in ministry is a form of fellowship. In that sense, as the global church, we really have no other option but partnership. As we have responded to the gospel, we enter into the fellowship of all believers. It may stretch us out of our comfort zones at times, but partnership for the gospel may be one of the best representations of the gospel. One of our devotions during the trip came from Ephesians 2, and these verses jumped out as I thought about partnership:
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (v14)
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (v19)
The divisions that may have existed prior to our salvation in Christ have been broken down and removed. The power of Christ’s death that broke down the dividing line between Jew and Gentile can also break down barriers among us Gentiles as well, bringing us one and all under the unity of Christ’s death and resurrection. We may reside in different states with different ethnicities (Lakota, anglo, hispanic, even “vikibilly”) but the gospel that we share is what unites us. We are humbled because we are reminded that we are not the only ones who serve or the only ones that care; many believers from many churches are engaged in missions. We are encouraged for the same reason. We don’t compete with other teams for the best camp week; instead we have the opportunity to learn from one another and truly partner together in the ministry of the gospel in one of the hardest, darkest places in the U.S. In the past our focus has been on what God has been doing through us among the Lakota people, but this year is a tangible reminder of simply what He is doing through His people among the Lakota people.