Three Lessons about God from PD
- Partnership Development was one of the most strange concepts (at least at that time) introduced to me two years ago while I got oriented into thinking about life in mission 24/7. Is it Biblical? How exactly as a fresh graduate do I go about it? Where and who are these partners? What do I do with the pride in my heart that raises red alarms every time I think of presenting myself to someone as being in need? These and very many other worries lingered my mind two years ago (and honestly some times some still do). And that marked the beginning of thinking seriously about Partnership Development.
So what exactly is Partnership Development?
PD is deliberately seeking out for like-minded Christians who together with, there is active involvement in christian service in support of each other. PD to an individual may mean;
• Talking to different Christians concerning your desire and plan on how to get involved in ministry and inviting them to pray with and for you.
• Talking to trusted friends who will be concerned about your welfare as you serve. These maybe people who will visit you or allow you vacation once in a while to make sure you are well taken care of.
• Deliberately seeking out news from christian ministries and mission agencies on their needs and using our God given resources to meet them-can be offering professional help, finances or material things that the individuals or ministries need among other resources.
• Seeking out on the prayer needs of Christians in ministry and organisational needs and praying for them.
So here are three major lessons I have learnt about God from my PD experience;
• It is never about me or the money!
Partnership Development is never and should never be centered on me or the money or the resources! The great commission that Christ left to his disciples and to every other christian since then was/is to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey Christ. The great Commission is not centered around me, but rather centered in all people hearing the Gospel of Christ. It is God-initiated (by sending His Son Jesus to die for us) and is God-ran. So as Christians seek to work together in serving the Lord, it should be clear that the goal is to have as many people as God allows to be convicted of sin and receive Christ as the Savior of the world from sin. Therefore this means that it is not about a strategic plan that a few people sit down to write that we are working out, but rather it is God’s ordained plan to use Christians to reach out as He works out His plan! Hudson Taylor wrote ‘God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.’ Paul in his encouragement to the Corinthian church to excel in giving wrote ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich’.2nd Cor 8:9. God through Jesus has made all who believe in Him rich. Rich in a heart to give in response to the great sacrifice that Jesus showed at the cross. It is very easy for Christians to narrow down partnership development to just having their needs met and to others just having to meet God’s obligation of giving to support ministry and forget that at the first place, it is God in His Sovereignty who works out every thing as He wills.
In my first year in apprenticeship with iServe Africa I had a friend (who remained anonymous till date) who would always top up my phone with airtime every month. When this became consistent and remained anonymous I really felt ashamed for being too narrow minded and forgetting that Gospel ministry is a work of God. I realized that I would not exactly merit my efforts for the generosity shown to me or think that I deserved it.
• Doing PD is a means of grace to humble Christians to depend on the Provider-God.
One of the reasons perhaps that really makes us work hard in our studies or at work is to meet our needs, and never have to ask for help to meet them. Independence is a source of pride to almost everyone. It makes us feel that we are enjoying the fruits of our labor; we sowed, and now reaping. But it is not always the case in Gospel ministry, at least not in the sense of the world. Thinking about the Gospel, we never ever deserved to have Jesus, a sinless man take up our place on the cross so that we can have eternal life. The only way to please God, is through faith, and not our works. This then helps us really appreciate God’s goodness through Christ and seek out to be fruitful not because our work merits our salvation but because without the works there is no proof of our new life.
I really struggled to present myself to people as one in need. I struggled to ask people be in partnership with me as we did Gospel work together. It had never occurred to me that I was very proud and selfish to not want to involve people in God’s mission. Meeting some very happy to support friends to support me came as an encouragement to endure in the mortification of my very proud heart and understand PD as a means of grace. I was also able to know and appreciate that God is the sole provider, who does so through His people. Partnership Development humbles the person seeking support and reminds them of the grace of Christ (counters the thoughts of ‘why should I ask for support and not work on my own and earn a living like everyone else?’) and humbles the sender in countering the thoughts of ‘why should I put aside my hard earned resources for a course without any assurance of visible material return’.
• PD is such a mirror of God our Father, as a relational God.
God is Triune (God our Father, God the Spirit and God the Son) and that means He already exists in community. Besides that, God reached out to mankind in reconciliation by giving His Son Jesus Christ as an atonement for our sins, and whoever believes in Him is reconciled back to God. What would make us think that He exists in community yet would love us to exist and serve Him as independent individuals? Partnership Development then is one of the ways that Christians show their oneness in serving the Lord. That would only mean that the opposite (failure to involve others in christian service) is negating the character of God. Having been made in the image of God calls for a life in imitation of Him through belief in our Lord Jesus Christ.
So in wanting to go into missions, financing oneself, taking care of oneself, praying for oneself etc there reflects the heart problem of selfishness and denying other Christians a chance to serve the Lord together, and therefore denying a chance for relationships.
I am convinced that Gospel work is a work of many hands and hearts, and so Partnership Development is a lifetime concept in Gospel work not only for missionaries abroad as we may think but for every christian. The Lord has designed it that way to His very glory.