As a pastor, I regularly receive requests for financial support from missionaries. With so many needs, and so many missionaries, and only limited finances, how can we decide whom to support? In an effort to be faithful in answering this question for our church, our pastors came up with four criteria to help us decide who we partner with for the purpose of advancing the gospel in missions.
They must be theologically like-minded.
We want to agree with our missions partners on the gospel and the basic doctrinal convictions of gospel Christianity. At High Pointe, we distinguish between CORE, CHARACTERISTIC, and CHARITY beliefs. CORE beliefs are those doctrines that make up gospel Christianity – the trinity, the deity/humanity of Christ, penal substitution, salvation by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone, and so forth. These are foundational doctrines. If you take one of these away, you no longer have gospel Christianity.
There are many gospel Christians who would agree with us on these CORE beliefs, but what distinguishes us from other gospel Christians is our CHARACTERISTIC beliefs: the baptism of believers only, elder leadership, congregational government, and regenerate church membership. These are the beliefs that characterize our fellowship. We require our members to affirm these characteristics.
Finally, there are charity beliefs—beliefs that are not essential. In these areas, Christians can disagree and still maintain fellowship. “Charity” is the old King James word for love. In these non-essential areas, we agree to love one another.
So then, we want to partner with gospel missionaries and groups that share our theology. For this reason, we have our missions partners affirm our statement of faith.
They must be philosophically like-minded.
Different missionaries will likely hold different philosophies of what missions is and who missionaries are. We want to partner with those who understand the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to emphasize taking the gospel to peoples who do not have the gospel, planting new churches, and teaching people to obey all Jesus has commanded. While there is a lot of good benevolence work done globally (orphanages, construction, etc.), we want to partner with those who share our philosophy of ministry–to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ and plant healthy gospel churches that reproduce disciples.
We prioritize the most strategic mission fields.
There are lots of places where we can do faithful mission work, but we want to partner with those who are doing the most strategic work. Where is it that there is little or no gospel presence? That’s where our priorities should be. And that is who we want to partner with – those seeking to advance the gospel where it is presently not.
We prioritize those we already have relationships with.
This doesn’t always mean we will know the individual beforehand, but we want to make every effort to know our partners. This might mean a potential missionary will join High Pointe for a season until we know them well enough to have confidence in their call. Or it might mean that we partner with members of High Pointe who are headed into strategic missions. This is our ideal. Regardless, we want to partner with those we have a relationship with because we want to maintain those relationships once the missionary is on the field. We want to send pastors and groups of members to where they are and continue building a long-term relationship of support.
We are called to mission. Not all of us are called in the same way. Some will go; others will stay. But all of us will participate in making disciples, planting healthy, gospel churches, and teaching one another all Jesus has commanded. You don’t have to agree with our four criteria. Regardless, I hope you can agree that without a strategic plan, we are likely to get involved in missions partnerships that prove frustrating or even futile. Let’s be thoughtful and strategic about our missions partnerships in order that we may be better stewards of the resources God has given us.