If we are persuaded that International Church-planting Partnerships (ICPs) are both a natural outworking of the gospel and highly beneficial for our local churches and networks of churches, then we will want to have easy steps to establishing ICPs in our context.
1. Set a gospel vision
This is the crucial piece. We must be convinced and convincing advocates of a global gospel vision that flows out of verses like Habakuk 2.14 : “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” In all of our sermons, studies and informal conversations, in our exegesis, exposition and application of the Bible text, the scope of the gospel – the breadth and the depth of its message, the cosmic Lordship of Jesus – should be present. Our people will soon learn to love this breathtaking panorama.
We must be convinced and convincing advocates of a global gospel vision.
2. Cultivate a meaningful relationship with a church-leader in an ICP context
There are two types of churches: churches that remember they were once a church-plant and those that forget. Those that remember set out intentionally to plant other churches. Churches that forget do not. The same is true of disciples who make disciples. And leaders that make leaders. We are intentional about all the things we remember having been instrumental and critical in our development. We should all be intentional about cultivating meaningful ICPs because we are all the result of an ICP somewhere along the line. How did the gospel get to my country? How did the gospel get from Jerusalem to Samaria to the ends of the earth? Churches networked and partnered with churches in sharing resources and personnel in a way that was both highly intentional and strategic and wonderfully providential (see the book of Acts and Paul’s letters!). Our Acts 29 family is a unique and God-given opportunity to pursue intentionally meaningful relationships with church-leaders in ICP contexts. Our networks have conferences, our churches are listed – setting aside time and money to visit churches and church-leaders in ICP contexts is the second step in the process.
3. Ask questions
Good relationships start with good listening. When visiting church-leaders, prepare good questions and topics for discussion. Find out about context, average church size, obstacles, opportunities, how quickly churches grow, how many churches there are per 10,000 people (sociologists in France have reckoned that good penetration is 1/10,000, in the US it is 1/1000 and in France it is 1/33,000), which denominations exist, how they get on, whether the country has a catholic or protestant heritage, how secular it is, whether the country is left or right wing… It is fascinating, eye-opening, and it gives the visitor just the cultural distance he and his church need to be fully aware of their own identity. Nothing teaches us so much about being at home as being abroad; nothing teaches us so much about our own identity as being a foreigner.
4. Report back and stimulate interest
If our churches have a gospel vision, if we have communicated our intention to pursue ICPs and if we have followed through and made a visit; the next thing is to report back and stimulate interest. It is impossible to travel attentively and intentionally and not have stories to tell.
5. Commit to concrete expressions of partnership
Often our attentive listening will identify areas of partnership that are obvious, sustainable, measurable and tangible. Identify them, put them in priority and commit to specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound goals.
6. Visit again with others
Relations are not just means; the gospel teaches us they are part & parcel of what it means to be a global family
Make the relationship with the leader and the plant central, impactful and enjoyable. Relations are not just means; the gospel teaches us that they are part and parcel of what it means to be a global family. Walking along a foreign street, with a group of people from a local church, developing relationships and discovering fresh ways of seeing and articulating God’s work in his world is a beautiful privilege. Opening this privilege to others in your leadership teams or your church is the next step.
7. Send short-term teams
As the relationship develops, it will be natural to send teams in both directions. These teams will accelerate and amplify the ministry of the local work. They will be factors of training, growth and effectiveness for all who participate.
8. Measure and report on the impact
As the relationship grows, take time to measure the impact on both sides of the partnership and report to the stakeholders in the churches. Celebrate the victories and the relationships that the Lord has granted through the intentional pursuit of International Church-planting Partnerships. And then pray that Jesus will lead you and your church into even more ICPs.