Compartmentalizing, categorization, and silo making…you may not realize it, but if you’re a North American or a church in North America, you’re good at these. We have our local community projects/funds here, our international projects/funds there; our city activists here, our global people out there (somewhere); our ‘missional’ philosophy/ efforts here in our neighborhoods, and our global ‘missions’ far away from here.
The language and understanding of what’s called ‘missional living’ has been with us for over a decade now. A mandate that calls each of us, as well as each of our churches, to reckon with the idea that as Christ-followers, we all have the opportunity and the responsibility to partner with God in His Missio Dei. Being on mission with God is an acknowledgement of who we’ve been called to be in this world; and not one of us is exempt! Wherever God has us; our homes, our communities, or our places of worship, Jesus calls us out to see ourselves as His missionaries, no matter where we are. So we’ve done that now; for at least a decade. We’ve looked at ourselves differently and we’ve looked at our homes, communities and churches differently; and it’s been a good thing. But a further question is this; in what way does ‘missional living’ and partnering with God in the Missio Dei affect our ‘global missions’ efforts?
For a long time now, the answer to this question for many churches (and many other North American ministries) has been the idea of personal involvement in Short Term Missions; and it’s been a good thing! Many followers of Jesus, along with their churches, have seen Short Term Mission as a healthy move away from just supporting missions in the traditional sense to being involved personally in God’s global work in the world; even as a closer way to partner with God in the Missio Dei. But is this ‘answer’ good enough? Does Short Term Mission, in the sense that many have experienced it, provide the best answer to the question that ‘missional living’ is asking of us? Is Short Term Mission a logical step of continuity for ourselves and our churches in how ‘missional living’ affects our ‘global missions’ efforts?
Although Short Term Mission has been with us for a while now, one of its biggest ‘short-comings’ (pun intended) is contained in its name; SHORT Term Mission. When you look at it, one of the main characteristics of a ‘missional lifestyle’ where one considers themselves (and/or their church) to be on mission or partnering with God (Missio Dei) is found in the re-education, for many of us as North Americans, on the importance of relationships. If you look at your home, neighborhood, community, etc. (or that of your church); to live out a ‘missional’ life is to live out a life of long term relationships, and most often, this is the aspect of Short Term Mission that fails to reflect one of the most important characteristics of the ‘missional lifestyle’.
So how do we address this disparity? Is there a way that we as churches can be true to our emerging ‘missional lifestyle’ emphasis on vital relationships when it comes to what we do globally through Short Term Mission? The answer is to go about our global efforts with the same long-term, relationship-driven ‘missional’ emphasis that we apply to our efforts closer to home. This is where Gateway’s push toward relationship-driven Sister Church Partnerships (SCP) looks to develop a ‘missional’ philosophy where Short Term Mission efforts are done in the context of Long Term mutual relationships.
SCPs provide a context for churches to consistently apply all that they’re seeking to do in partnering with God in the Missio Dei through ‘missional living’ on the global scale as well as at home. Long-term relationships fit in these partnerships; Short Term Mission team projects fit; support raising efforts fit; connection, communication, coordination, and collaboration between the two partnering churches all fit in a SCP. When looking at Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8 and then seeing the fleshing out of His words coming true throughout the rest of the book (‘…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth…’), we can see throughout this progression that churches were founded, developed and continued in relationship to each other, even as ‘the ends of the earth’ approached. Long-term relationships between the churches of the first century became the key to an emerging network of congregations across the known world of the time; and we seek to continue that networking/expansion on the basis of those same types of long-term relationships. Our context for a global ‘missional lifestyle’ is to be found, not in independent single church efforts (Short Term Mission and otherwise) here and there in the world, but in partnering, even Sister Church Partner-ing, in each other’s global communities and networks for the long-term.
At Gateway, Sister Church Partnerships, with their intended focus on long-term relationships first and foremost, present churches with a consistent way to apply ’Missional Living’ on a global scale. If you’re a pastor or a church leader that’s passionate about giving your church opportunities to live missionally in your own community as well as globally, contact us at Gateway via email, Facebook or Twitter, or learn more at gatewayteams.org.
– Randy Schmor, Director of Gateway Teams
– Shelly Schmor, Co-Director of Gateway Teams