At the Global:Church Forum, a panel discussion shared the global partnership experiences of Ajith Fernando of Youth for Christ (Sri Lanka), Menchit Wong of Compassion International (Philippines), Oscar Murui of Nairobi Chapel (Kenya), Bishop Jospeh Garang Atem of The Episcopal Church of Sudan (South Sudan), and John Huffman of Christianity Today (USA).
What have you learned at the Global: Church Forum?
Huffman: Those of us who are givers need to be receivers and to listen for a season before talking. In fact, Westerners may be the receivers in the years ahead which will be tough.
Wong: We need to stop and reflect.
Muriu: There is a need for the Church to explore southern hemisphere to southern hemisphere partnerships.
How can leadership boards be better?
Murui: Bring the reformers in. Bring in fresh eyes that have no vested interest and can speak with honesty.
Huffman: You have to be willing to give up power in order to have global diversity. At board levels, this is a very delicate issue.
How do you maintain balance without creating power struggles?
Fernando: Come in with the perspective that God’s sovereignty is greater than us. Do not give up the idea that agreement is possible. Always punctuate meetings of conflict with prayer because it is difficult to be mean when influenced by prayer.
Atem: Give the Holy Spirit room to do His work.
Wong: Don’t call it a retreat when it is really a business meeting. We had to repent and humble ourselves before others and God. And as we set aside the business agenda and reflected spiritually, it was a time of great growth. When we pay attention to the Holy Spirit and less of ourselves, good things happen.
In some ministries there is an unspoken value of perpetuity equals success. But sometimes there are times that the work is done. How do you discern that? What are barriers to realizing it?
Huffman: If times change and a ministry model is no longer successful, you need to close it.
Fernando: What does our nation need? Is our group doing something that the nation needs? Sometimes you need to stop things. Other times you just need radical shifts.
Murui: Maybe we need to learn as Christians to work a timeline into the things we create. Without an end point, some ministries live on to drain Kingdom resources. If I was the Devil, I’d try to keep organizations alive.
Why are the majority of black Americans not investing in Africa as missionaries?
Murui: The black American Church has been asleep to missions because it is so caught up within its needs within the US culture – dysfunctional families, incarceration rates, etc. But we are beginning to see the black American Church wake up and start coming as missionaries. When we see a white come to Africa, there is some sense of suspension because of our history of colonialism. But when a black American visits, they have high credibility because Africa looks up to their music and sports athletes.
Will donors in the West start mandating organizations to start working together for strategic partnership? And should they?
Fernando: It is necessary for there to be chemistry, and you cannot mandate chemistry. I also think there is a move of the Spirit that will connect people together.
Huffman: Mainline denominations did use to mandate working together, but then they declined. What is happening now is a new paradigm of working together. The Holy Spirit is mandating us, but I don’t think it will be one-size-fits-all.
Wong: The work to be done is so big that we must have strategic partnerships, so we at least must be working towards them.
How do we help the Northern Church free itself from isolated independence and better engage in God’s mission?
Huffman: Friendship is the best way to engage and prevent isolation. These relationships are lasting. Partnership at its best comes from friendship. Not all partnerships have the luxury of 50 years of relationship first. Sometimes you have to move in fast, but always work for friendship.
Murui: There seems to be a romanticism for the West to go into extreme poverty and engage it while bypassing key churches around that poverty that would be a great help. Work with significant local organizations and treat them as equals. The Africa and India of today have changed from 50 years ago.
Wong: It is when God humbles us that we can truly experience great things. When an organization is proud of its vision, it is easy to miss the strengths of other groups. Invite other organizations into your gatherings so that you can appreciate their work. When you travel, remove your ideas and act as family. Mentioning your title can create barriers. Pray together.
Atem: Come and see, and you will know what to do.