John Stott famously said, “We must be global people with a global vision because our God is a global God.”
Most leaders I talk to don’t need to be convinced of this point. Nor do they need to be convinced that strategic partnerships—relationships leveraging the unique resources of multiple churches—are a healthy, sustainable means to engage in global church-planting efforts.
But many do struggle to know where to begin.
For the last four years, I’ve helped lead the Acts 29 Emerging Regions Network. I have the privilege of speaking with men and women on the front lines of ministry to the unreached—brothers and sisters advancing the gospel by planting churches in places like Lagos, Ho Chi Minh, Lahore, Shanghai, Kampala, Mumbai, Tokyo, Nairobi, Bangkok, and more.
Not everyone can be in these places. This is why we aim to facilitate partnerships between churches to plant churches—specifically in unreached areas. Still, finding a viable partner is challenging.
Here are three places to start when it comes to engaging in global church-planting efforts as a local church.
Often there’s a particular place you want to invest in. Perhaps it’s a region you’ve been reading about and praying for. Or maybe there’s a region that would be strategic for you to engage due to language or geographic proximity. Of course, some areas should be prioritized simply due to their distinct lack of gospel resources, healthy churches, and/or trained leaders.
But partnering with churches in largely Christian contexts can still contribute to efforts in unreached places, especially when the aim is to plant multiplying churches.
Partnering with churches in largely Christian contexts can still contribute to efforts in unreached places, especially when the aim is to plant multiplying churches.
For Matt Dirks and Harbor Church in Hawaii, this has looked like leveraging their South Pacific location as a launch pad into East and Southeast Asia. As I write, Matt and volunteers from their church are hosting a retreat for pastors and their wives from various parts of Asia.
Harbor Church has also invested, for a decade now, into a budding network of church planters in Vietnam, recruiting other pastors with Vietnamese language proficiency to accelerate their training efforts.
Your mind likely jumps to finances here, which is understandable. But there are solid leaders planting churches in challenging contexts who want your relational, spiritual, and intellectual support far more than your financial support.
If you’ve received any theological education (even informally), then you have something to offer. The time and energy you’ve invested there—along with the insights, processes, and care that have grown you as a leader—can and should be reinvested into partners. Theological famine is real; we shouldn’t underestimate its effects.
For Red Tree Church in St. Louis, for example, partnership looked like orienting staff meetings, preaching collectives, and other rhythms to include the leaders of their partner church in Mumbai. Eventually, this led to one Red Tree pastor moving to Mumbai to support the training of pastors around that city.
While there’s more to resources than money, many pastors and churches still need financial support. Don’t be the church who writes checks but doesn’t care for your partners. But also, don’t be the church who will give a partner everything but money. If you have a good relationship, don’t withhold financial resources.
It’s easy to think that unless you have lots of money, your contribution won’t really make a difference. Jesus says otherwise.
It’s easy to think that unless you have lots of money, your contribution won’t really make a difference. Jesus says otherwise (Mark 12:43–44). And some of Paul’s highest praise was for the Macedonian churches whose “abundance of joy and . . . extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity” (2 Cor 8:2). Monetary riches are not the measure of a generous heart.
I saw this type of generosity play out recently with a young church plant in Austin. Less than a year old, Trinity Church set aside money for the sake of partnership and invested in a church in Tokyo. Combined with contributions from other churches, this young church is helping fuel gospel ministry among the world’s second-least-reached nation.
Resonate Church in the Bay Area and The District Church in Florida wanted to make a difference with church planting in an unreached area. They allowed their relationship to drive their partnership efforts. They committed to help raising up the next generation of gospel-centered church planters in Thailand through Acts 29 training initiatives.
They know it will take years to see the vision come to fruition, but they intentionally sought out ways to partner with churches on the ground to make a difference. They didn’t have prior connection to Thailand, but they are sending people, money, and knowledge to a dark place to shine gospel light.
Healthy gospel partnerships truly can have a global impact. Whether they’re formal or informal, start with relationships to identify partners who are planting churches that will plant churches.