Sometimes I think it is important to clarify terms because words find their meaning in context. We can say words have concrete definitions but that is only because we have agreed that specific sounds in specific contexts mean certain things. If you have studied communication, then you know this goes even deeper. Generally, we agree on the definitions, but we do allow for a certain amount variation as long as it is not too different. For example, when I say black, I might include a range of dark blue and purple colors because they are all dark. You might have a better understanding of color and give each a different name. We can discuss the differences but, in most cases, it will not make a huge difference. Sometimes however the slight differences we give to words make an important difference. Today I thought I would define some words as I use them because I use them a lot in the context of missions and other ministry work. The word I want to look at today is partnership because a lot is going on in those three syllables.
What is great about this word is that whether you use the biblical word (koinōne) or you look at the standard English meaning you can still roughly get the same idea. The biblical meaning of this word just carries additional meaning and fills in some gaps. In general, the word means two or more people engaged in the same activity. That is pretty good. If you think of a team you need all the players working together to reach the desired goal of winning. That is not bad. So, if we decided to define the word this way then when I ask you to partner with us you can think “OK we want the same thing.” The problem is you can be partners to work towards the same goal without intimacy. I can play on the same team as someone and not like them. You can work with me but you might have a sub agenda and I might not be working towards that agenda. We can work together and not be together.
Koinōne comes to the rescue and fills in the gaps. This word means partnership but adds intimacy. It means we are not only working together towards the same goal but for the same reasons and we care for each other. This word gives additional responsibilities to each person on the team saying they need to look out for one another. They need to have the interest of the other as their own and that is what I mean when I say partnership. I am asking you to join with us for the same goal, with the same motives, and have my back. In turn, I am promising to have yours. I am saying that I want to work with you towards your goal and I care for you. It is not a light thing to join in partnership or koinōne with someone. This, by the way, is why the Bible talks about not partnering with sinful things. But that’s another story.
So, what makes up a team with this understanding? If we have defined partnership as working together towards the same goal, with the same motives, and having each other’s interest at heart, then who does what on a team? Well in missions and ministry there generally two roles: goers and senders. Each one has a different job, but both are vital and important.
Before we look at goers and senders let us first clarify one more thing. Prayer is the one thing that we all do on the team. I pray for you and you pray for me. I love prayer and believe it to be vital to life. It is life and breath, food and drink, comfort and request. Prayer is the beginning, middle, and end of everything we do. I will sprinkle that idea through the rest of this because it is that important.
Ok, on to the goers. That is us. We are going somewhere to do something. This is exciting and great and terrifying and a host of other things. It means giving up everything we know and moving to something we do not. It is exciting but it is also a loss of so many things. A loss of comfort and meeting with friends. A loss of knowing how to do even the most basic of things that we instinctively know how to do like who to acknowledge in public and who to avoid eye contact with. Going means leaving and leaving means loss but also means learning and sharing.
As we go into a new thing, we get the opportunity to tell people about Jesus. We get to bring light into darkness and hope into hopelessness. We get to bring truth. It is an honor and a privilege and a command. It is worth the loss because of what we are doing. In this one thing that we do is pray and we pray a lot. But we do not just pray for the things we are doing or the people we are interreacting with we pray for you, our friends and family. Your churches, your children, your small groups, your jobs, all of it. We do this for two reasons. First, because you are worth it. We want you to be blessed and walk into all that God has for you. Second, because it keeps us connected to you and ensures we have your best interest at heart. We as goers do not just go, we pray for those who send.
Senders are such an important part of the team. If we did not have senders, we would not have much of the New Testament. The letter to the Philippians is Paul writing to a group of people who sent him out to plant more churches. The letter is Paul giving them an update and talking to his friends. It is like a newsletter. In Philippians 4:15 Paul writes to his friends who sent him.
Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only
Paul is acknowledging the partnership and at the beginning of the letter, he tells them that he prays for them often and tells them what he is praying. This, by the way, is why I text people that I am praying for them. I think it is so amazing when we pray for each other and then let the other person know. It does something to you and breathes life into your day. It tells you in an instant that you are important to someone and they have your back.
So just like the goers, senders pray. When we say we want you to be praying or us it is not a plow or a subtle plea to then ask for money. No, we want and need prayer. I am not subtle about asking for finances.
We need finances to go. There are no two ways about it. Money is required in ministry because while God owns the cattle on a thousand hills a lot of that cattle is under someone else’s care. Money is not a dirty word or a wicked thing. It is a tool that is to be used. Enjoy it, spend it, buy stuff, but also use it for greater things. There is something amazing that happens to your prayers when you are financially tied to the mission. You are now connected to it in a new and deep way. It moves from being something someone else is doing to something you are doing as well.
Some will say, I can only pray. First, let me say there is nothing only about prayer. I think by now you know I think prayer is powerful and important. Second, that is OK because we need people praying. If you want, I can add you to Julie’s prayer emails. She sends out emails more often than the newsletter and gives more specifics about things we are praying for. We want to be praying for you too so let us know. Prayer partners are partners and important ones.
Others can partner financially in addition to praying, and this is needed. We have people we partner with financially and it has made a huge difference in the way we pray for them and the way we pray in general. It takes that prayer to another level because you are literally invested into it. You are tied to it differently. You rejoice differently and you mourn differently. When we give to something with our finances, we want to see it happen, so we talk about it more, we give to it more, we pray more, and when it happens, we are so excited.
So that is what I mean when I say partnership. It is not just working towards the same goal, I am asking you to join with us for the same goal, with the same motives, to have my back, and to know that I have yours.
So am asking you for money? Yes. No two ways around it. But more than that I am asking you to partner with us as we move towards a common goal, to have each others backs, and be in this thing together.
Just a thought,