What is Biblical ministry partnership?

Regardless of what you choose to do in life, whether it be reactive or proactive, postive or negative, always pray first, think and count the costs. Luke 14:28-33

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Colossians 3:23-24 (KJV)

There is not a one size fits all model of ministry partnership in the Bible. It is something that should be prayed about and be discussed before entering in to any ministry partnership agreement.

Commonly held passions, aims, and goals may draw people to minister together. If God has brought them together, if they suffered together and for one another; and the time spent together is repeated and substantial, choosing to go in to a ministry partnership together may be a wise decision.

Phil. 1:7  Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. Also Phil. 2:19-22

A ministry partnership can have significant limitations, or it can be deep, broad, and everything in between. It is up to the partners to pray together and discuss the depth of their involvement, establish clearly defined boundaries and clear expectations in their partnership. Once these have been established, it is the expectation that partners will respect the boundaries. Respect, mutual submission and follow through are paramount. Mutual submission is the most important aspect of any ministry partnership. All partners are equals. Ephesians 5:21  Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Entering in to a ministry partnership is like an artist with a blank canvas. The partners paint the picture of what they want the partnership and ministry to be, who to serve, who to reach, what each partner's role or responsibilities will be and with the leading of the Holy Spirit they will reach the potential God has planned for the ministry. God Knows the end from the beginning. When we seek His Guidance in prayer, HE will lead, guide, and order the steps for all aspects of ministry.

In the Bible, the most satisfying and fruitful partnerships went well beyond a business model, financial transactions, standards of accountability, and modest prayers. Rich partnerships in the Gospel arose out of deep relationships based on shared passion, mutual goals, and much time spent together. This should give us much to pray about and ponder.

One of the most blessed, but also most tragic partnerships in the Bible is that of Paul and Barnabas. In Acts, chapters 11 - 15, they are mutually submissive co-laborers on the mission field. Yet the last words spoken of their partnership and friendship are these: And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;  Acts 15:39. The grace of God allowed their split to be a greater means of advancing the Gospel as their work force was multiplied (Acts 15:39-41; Col. 4:10 and 2 Tim. 4:11). But this occurred at a great cost to both of them and resulted in much pain.

Saying "sorry" and acknowledging we have hurt another person goes a long way toward bringing healing and reconciliation. Accepting the apology of another and offering immediate forgiveness is vital. Love, grace, patience, acceptance, compassion, and mutual submission to the Word of God should prevail. Discussing all matters in a caring, compassionate manner brings repentance, healing, and changes. Angry outbursts, pride, self-righteousness, impatience, accusations and unedifying words can cause a lot of unnecessary hurt, pain and destruction. These negative behaviours cause trust issues between the partners.

If your ministry partner asks you to go 1 mile, you go twain with or for them. Matthew 5:41 (Twain means two). Go above and beyond what is being asked of you.

What happened in the end with Paul and Barnabas, is one biblical illustration of an ever-present, but often rarely spoken of reality: partnerships are risky and can get messy. Jesus trusted Judas Iscariot, and Judas in turn betrayed Him. Moses chose twelve partner leaders to spy out the Promised Land; ten of them succumbed to unbelief and caused deep grief and judgement (Num. 13:1-14:45).

In the cases of both Jesus and Moses, even those who did follow and believe often got sidetracked and made things difficult at times (e.g., Peter, the sons of Zebedee, Philip, Thomas, Aaron, and Miriam).

These examples in the Bible can be a guide for us to help us avoid making the same errors in ministry. God's Grace and Love can freely flow in any ministry partnership making it a joy to serve together. Personal pride, self righteousness, and other fleshly desires need to be set aside for the sake of the ministry. Being compassionate, respectful and kind towards partners can and will result in the ministry reaching it's full potential, bring great joy to the partners and Glorify God.

Most of Paul’s partnerships with congregations and individuals (his church and mission relationships) are marked by risk and conflict. Those who were wayward and/or immature were often subject to his rebukes. And those representing “agreeable” and “deep” partnerships with him were ones Paul took risks with, and they took risks with and/or for him.

In addition, numerous New Testament apostles clearly declare that an important, common denominator in their most meaningful Gospel partnerships was suffering (Peter –1 Pet. 4:13; John –Rev.1:9; Paul –Phil.1:29-30).

Personalities and cultures can clash, unmet expectations or unclear boundaries can lead to many disappointments within partnerships. Misunderstandings and conflict are an inevitable, human norm and a spiritual/emotional reality. Callings may be different and lead to relational stress, and spiritual warfare vastly complicates and stresses partnerships. Lack of time spent together and lack of time spent together in prayer - can take their toll.

Satan is always going to try to bring division so he can neutralize and isolate. It is to be expected. The Bible identifies ways to overcome this form of attack and tells us why it is so destructive.

Unity between partners is spiritual. Division is personal alienation between partners caused by sinful attitudes like envy, pride, or self-righteousness. It manifests itself in broken relationships as anger, resentment, bitterness, etc. (Jas. 3:14-16; Eph. 4:26,27, 31)). These things set partners against one another and give Satan the opportunity to gain a stronghold.

A key to our witness is the love we show towards each other (Jn. 13:34; 17:23). Anger and division demotivates everyone involved in it. It is draining to partner in an environment of anger, outbursts, put downs and the like. Some partners may drop out of the race, become isolated and neutralized. Some partners may persevere through the division but restrain their zeal and refuse to risk allowing the partners to get close again.

Angry outbursts and division prevent effective leadership, destroy trust and destroy partners. It is like a rampant disease. It is best to prevent it from ever occurring. Heb 10:24-25 shows us that relational passiveness, lackluster attitude and disengagement also bring division.

It is difficult for Satan to bring division between partners who are consistently praying for, praying with, encouraging each other and filled with the joy of the Lord. Maintaining a positive attitude towards partners makes it difficult for Satan to do anything. (Heb 13:7; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 5:19)

No one can know the heart or motives of another. Jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, being demanding, focusing on weaknesses, projection, etc., are destructive. Talk through personal conflicts as soon as you become aware of them. (Matt. 5:23-24) Be ready to listen. Matt. 7:3-5, be ready to apologize even if it is not reciprocated. Forgive and be willing to forbear. (Col. 3:13) Ask for help from others. (Phil. 4:2-3)

We do not have to take control of all situations and conversations as we have been trained to do by the world. We need to unlearn the controlling behaviours in communication in our personal lives. We submit to God and submit to one another. God controls, leads and guides. Things flow in the absence of oppression.

We all have a choice. We can maintain our focus on serving Jesus in ministry (Christ First), serving our partner or we can allow ourselves to get sidetracked by demanding things be done our own way rather than waiting on The Lord for direction and leadership in prayer together. It is all about mutual submission and choices. It is about running the race with perseverance - not stopping along the way, delaying or putting off what we have committed to do for others.

Until the Lord Jesus returns, such matters are and will be true of ministry partnerships. God often doesn't work according to our plans or expectations. As it was with Jesus and the twelve Disciples, God assumes a great risk by entrusting us, fallible as we are, with the stewardship of the kingdom and the responsibilities of ministry.

We should not be surprised or derailed by the messiness and riskiness of our joint ventures. We should set aside our personal preferences, walk in peace and love, serve and persevere in love and discernment. When partners come together as one, in Christ, in mutual submission, and respect, powerful things happen for the sake of the Gospel.

God will prevail in and beyond our partnerships (Rom. 16:25-27; Eph. 3:20-21; Jude24-25).

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. Proverbs 3:5-10




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