Partnership in the gospel

Monday, 16 July, 2012

Graham Cray's monthly e-xpressions column.

However counter-cultural it may seem in our individualistic society, the Christian faith is essentially corporate. We belong to one another in Christ. From the beginning the life of the early church was characterised by fellowship (koinonia), a generous mutual sharing of lives and gifts (Acts 2.42). This generosity was not just an internal matter but was demonstrated in mission as well. Paul thanks the Philippian church for their sharing (koinonia) in the gospel, which involved prayer and sending both finance and co-workers for his pioneering missionary work.

It is this sense of partnership which is characteristic of fresh expressions and the mixed economy at its best. At the local level, churches are releasing some leaders and resources to develop fresh expressions to establish a mixed economy of outreach where each contributes to the whole church's mission by engaging people unreached by the other congregation. As one part is blessed so is the whole. At an area level, churches can combine ecumenically or within a circuit or deanery to supplement their existing work with a new missional community – a network church, a youth congregation, Messy Church in the local school etc. Regionally, FEASTs allow the sharing of prayer, resources and training, and ensure that we never church plant competitively – out of ignorance. At the national level, denominations partner one another so that each can benefit from the learning of all. We are on a learning curve about contextual church and we have the privilege of learning new things for one another and all benefitting together. (Mike Moynagh's new book Church for Every Context has gathered and expanded much of that learning).

Networks of pioneers are forming for mutual encouragement and mutual learning, and there is to be a learning community of dioceses. The partnership of mission agencies - and the 24/7 Prayer Movement - alongside the denominations in this country is another example of this shared missionary life, which the Holy Spirit is inspiring and empowering. This is even developing internationally as fresh expressions work gets underway in various parts of the world, providing new sources of learning.

The crossing of cultural and other barriers is also part of this generous shared life. As fresh expressions are established in communities and networks previously untouched by the church, so the church locally becomes more diverse, and in the mixed economy its unity can have more of the breadth which God intends for his Church and Kingdom.

Something which first came to the attention of the national Church through a report to the Church of England has turned out to be a rich partnership of partnerships – experiencing the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the leader of the Church's mission. May this partnership deepen, grow and extend, for the sake of the gospel.

+Graham Cray


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