Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Shape of Gospel Partnership| Part 1: Introduction

What is ‘gospel partnership’? It is a phrase that many of us will be very familiar with. We hear it used in sermons, at conferences, in books, articles and other Christian literature. No doubt we will have used it ourselves many times in different contexts. But what is ‘gospel partnership’ and what does it involve? This is what I want to tease out in a series of posts. It is worth doing this because ‘gospel partnership’ may be in danger of becoming simply a trendy ‘buzz-word’ or ‘Christian jargon’ that we use, but have not thought through what it means.

Let us begin by thinking about partnership. The word partnership in the Bible can also be translated as ‘fellowship’(See Philippians 1:5). Fellowship does not mean merely a nice chat over a cup of tea (with some “wee buns”!) after a Christian meeting as it has often come to mean. It’s a lot stronger than that. It is a sharing together in something, and indicates a very close relationship. In Philippians it is closely tied with the sacrificial, costly, energetic, wholehearted, persevering striving together for the sake of a common goal of project (Philippians 1:27-30). It is something that happens together with others. It is something that we have a share in, sharing joys and sorrows in. In Paul’s language it is having “one spirit” and “with one mind striving side by side” (Philippians 1:27). Partnership is not easy, it is hard, costly, demanding work; but it is worthwhile.

When we speak about partnership as ‘gospel partnership’, this has three major implications. First, it means that it is a partnership that is founded on the gospel. Secondly, it is a partnership that is for the sake of the gospel. Thirdly, the way in which we conduct this partnership must be shaped by the gospel. All of these areas are vital for us to be getting to grips with as we think about gospel partnership and the shape it ought to take.

In this series of posts I intend to outline each of these three areas in turn. First up, in our next post we shall look at what it means for our partnesrship to be founded on the gospel.