Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks. Churches Partnering Together: Biblical Strategies for Fellowship, Evangelism, and Compassion. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. 176 pp. $15.99.
Church and Ministry
Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks are both pastors in the Hawaiian Islands. Though serving on an island in the Pacific, these two pastors knew that their ministries could not function as lone island ministries much like a lone ranger pastorate. Bruno and Dirks needed one another – the churches they led needed one another – and the Lord graciously brought them together to found the Kairos Ministry partnership, a ministry partnership that serves churches in Southeast Asia.
As these men locked arms together, along with other churches, they saw a need to discuss a function of ministry distinct from denominational efforts, networks, and parachurch ministries: a ministry function that falls in step with the Jerusalem collection initiative (Acts 11:27-30). Together they wrote Churches Partnering Together, one of the most startling and inspiring books I’ve read this year.
Churches Partnering Together is about churches collaborating together in kingdom partnerships. What’s that?
The authors say:
A kingdom partnership is a gospel-driven relationship between interdependent local churches that pray, work, and share resources together strategically to glorify God through kingdom advancing goals they could not accomplish alone. (18).
In Churches Partnering Together, Bruno and Dirks follow the biblical story of Paul’s catalytic function in the Jerusalem collection, while sharing their story and stories of others – who conceived kingdom partnerships – in order to guide pastors, churches, and church members to have an enlarged perspective of the kinds of new and creative ministries that might be accomplished when local churches rally together people and resources in ways that individual churches would not be able to do effectively.
Chapters one through three of Churches Partnering Together lay out what is a kingdom partnership. Chapters four through seven present the qualities of kingdom partnerships. And chapters eight and nine instruct on how to practically and effectively launch a new kingdom partnership.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
I approached this resource expecting inspiring stories, and I found them. One example is the initiative of a pair of churches separated by hundreds of miles in the US partnering to respond to the earthquake in Haiti, an initiative that spawned Churches Helping Churches (31). Another example is the partnership between Niddrie Community Church and Bardstown Christian Fellowship, which birthed 20 Schemes in Scotland (99-100). A third instance is Common Grace ministry – born from the tragedy of Columbine. It is a ministry that pairs mature Christian adults with lonely or troubled elementary students (115-116). These examples are more than instances of churches successfully partnering with one another. Each one exemplifies a characteristic of a healthy partnership.
I expected to see practical tips on effective partnerships, things like what to avoid, anticipate, or what attributes a successful partnership will embody. I found those features in Churches Partnering Together. The authors provide three key motivations of a partnership (28-31), the distinction between a network and partnership (40), seven conditions for confronting a partner (62-63), and four steps to cultivating ownership (117-126), among others. These memorable, almost blog-like snippets, are a welcomed resource to consult in the future, not just in reference to partnerships but for wider aspects of pastoral ministry as well.
As I say, I expected heart-warming stories and pro-tips, what I did not anticipate are the congruous relationships of the former with the biblical study of the Jerusalem collection weaved throughout this book. Nowhere have I come across such a well-developed, thorough, yet accessible study of this critical aspect of Paul’s mission. The authors of Churches Partnering Together exhibit how pervasive the Jerusalem collection was to Paul’s missionary endeavor and epistolary writing. Meanwhile, chapter-by-chapter, they helpfully connect this biblical study to the practical elements of the book.
Until reading this book, I had not understood the significance of the Jerusalem collection and what all it accomplished; Churches Partnering Together took what in my mind was a somewhat footnoted, mundane, detail of the biblical text and morphed it into a catalyst of kingdom work that did more than merely feed mouths but cultivated soil for gospel seeds. As the authors say, “Active gospel-created partnerships are marked by one driving passion: the kingdom of God” (41). The Jerusalem collection, as Bruno and Dirks presents, typifies this premise.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
Churches Partnering Together conveys the stark reality that churches are interdependent entities that accomplish more together for the gospel than apart.