Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks, Churches Partnering Together. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014. 176pp. $15.99
Great kingdom work is being done all across communities, cities and the world, but how often are churches looking to one another to partner together to better reach these people and areas? Many churches either think they can go it alone in the work or many churches believe they don’t have the time or resources to pursue a ministry need they see. Through a biblical lens, Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks have written Churches Partnering Together to look at this very question and show how it is important for churches to partner together to better reach our communities and reach the nations. Whether a church is large or small, churches must be pursuing kingdom partnerships with other churches to create unity and achieve ministry goals.
Many churches haven’t pursued partnerships with other churches in their own cities or across the country and world. This may be due to a belief that they aren’t big enough to help or they may believe that they can’t partner with a church that doesn’t align with them in all ways doctrinally. Bruno and Dirks start from the beginning to set up that this is an incorrect way to look at biblical church partnerships and do so with a case study of Paul’s ministry to the Jews and Gentiles. “You might be surprised to find out what Paul actually spent the most time, energy, and relational captial pursuing during his first decade of ministry: he worked to build a partnership of Gentile churches to support the struggling Jewish Christians in Jerusalem” (Loc 168). Bruno and Dirks spend the time in Churches Partnering Together walking through how Paul established and pursued biblical partnerships with first-century churches to support this shared mission.
Bruno and Dirks establish what a kingdom partnership is and how they define it. They say, “A kingdom partnership is a gospel-driven relationship between interdependent local churches that pray, work, and share resources together strategically to glorify God through kingdom-advancing goals they could not accomplish alone” (Loc 209). Through this, Bruno and Dirks believe that no church should compromise its gospel integrity for a partnership. But also a church shouldn’t not consider partnering with another church simply because of a doctrinal difference. Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian churches can partner together just as Evangelical, Southern Baptist and Assembly of God churches can partner together. If there is a shared mission and vision of how to bring effective gospel ministry better to a city, then if there isn’t any gospel compromising measures there are no reasons that churches with different doctrines shouldn’t partner together. They should.
Here is how Bruno and Dirks show Paul’s ministry strategy toward kingdom partnership time and time again. “While the Jerusalem apostles focused on reaching Jews, Paul and Barnabas would go across the Roman empire, planting churches among the Gentiles. (…) Once Paul had evangelized a city, established a Christian community, strengthened the saints in the church, and raised up leaders to guide the church, he called the church toward partnership in God’s greater kingdom” (Loc 319-327) Paul saw partnership as a way for churches to come together and show Christian unity as directed in John 17.
This is something all churches should be considering today in their own cities. No church will reach all people in one city, but many churches either believe they can be all things to all people or they simply have never thought about it and more than likely are not very evangelistic. Paul displayed kingdom partnership and unity from church to church that he planted. This must be a priority in our churches today as well. “When churches work side by side with one another, they are reminded of their union with one another in Christ” (Loc 354).
Bruno and Dirks do a good job of reminding the reader that kingdom partnerships must be focused and built on the gospel alone. Many churches and partnerships today have been formed around something that is not purely the gospel. Not to say that many churches are not doing good work in their community, but they are more focused on helping people by giving them food, clothing, new ideas on how to be better parents and many other things but not giving them the gospel. Bruno and Dirks say, “We’re always trying to add something to God’s grace. Soon, the issues that drive our churches (such as strengthening families, pursuing social justice, or even studying the Bible) can start to take on gospel-level importance in our minds” (Loc 468-477). The gospel must be the foundation and building point of any partnership and must influence and guide what the partnership will look like and do. The gospel should not just be an add-on at the end, it must be the center piece.
For any pastor or any church that is wanting to understand kingdom partnerships and how a church could begin to start partnerships in their city with other churches or around the nation and world, Churches Partnering Together is a fantastic resource to consider reading. Bruno and Dirks dive deeper in the latter chapters with more of a “how-to” guide in beginning and establishing church partnerships towards gospel mission. This book fired me up to think uniquely how churches in my city could show unity as well as pursue greater gospel penetration in the hearts and lives of the people in my town. Kingdom partnership is so much bigger than simply clothing or feeding or classes on bettering a marriage. While the efforts of many churches are noble, church partnerships have the potential to change lives and change entire cities for Christ. Check out Churches Partnering Together if you want to have a passion and desire to change your city with other churches.
This is an honest review written in exchange of a review copy of Churches Partnering Together from Crossway publications.