United World Mission Leads Local Church to Fruitful Partnership through Short-Term Teams
At Riverbend Community Church in Lexington, SC, a missions-minded church of 450 attendees, we have felt the need for local churches and mission organizations to cooperate more in fulfilling the Great Commission. Many times it seems that once a missionary is sent, the only contact is an occasional newsletter or visit while on home assignment, and as long as the check is in the mail, everyone seems happy. Our model of ministry is not comfortable with that arrangement as we desire for our members to be more hands on in their mission’s knowledge and involvement.
One of our missionaries, Kevin Mason, who is with United World Mission (UWM) understood our desire and assured us that UWM shared that same value. He introduced us to Mark Szymanski, UWM’s Partnership Director at the time, and together with them our church leaders discussed how we could partner together in a way that would give us more missions exposure.
After discussing options with us that included our desire to be involved in church planting, we traveled to two sites in Sweden where UWM had national partners that shared similar desires. We felt a deep connection with two of the pastors we met in the far north in a university town of Luleå. We continued to explore opportunities in Luleå under the mentoring and coaching of Mark and Kevin, and this led us to establishing an initial five-year partnership with these two churches.
The results have been beyond our expectations! Our partnership included traveling multiple times to Sweden with different short-term teams, helping strengthen and re-launch a vibrant university ministry, hosting Swedish students at a summer missions, leadership training program in our city and having the two pastors, David and Richard, come share at our church. Of course, the invitations have been reciprocal, and we have enjoyed sharing in their churches and even speaking at their conferences.
Our goals included assisting the churches in renewing an “outside the walls” vision and helping train up a new generation of Swedish young people who would have a heart for missions and particularly church planting in the last places. The gospel has been shared many times and people have come to Christ and been baptized. We even sent one of our staff out to live in Luleå, and after living there two years, she has decided to stay there long-term and plans to move next summer to assist with a city-wide strategy to plant churches and train leaders in Stockholm while at the same time continuing to coach the work in Luleå. We have been so pleased with the partnership that we have extended it longer and praise God for all He has done.
We cannot thank UWM and particularly Kevin and Mark enough for their ongoing encouragement and coaching throughout this partnership. It is so refreshing to see a mission organization have Kingdom values that brings local churches into real partnership with national church partners. In fact, we are now discussing with UWM additional partnering ideas to reach into other areas of Europe and beyond, particularly with diaspora opportunities through the recent migration of people’s from around the world to Europe.
We know that everything we do is for the Glory of Christ, and He is the one who is building His church (Matthew 16:18). The time is short and as someone has said, it is time to put away our logos and egos and buckle down together in building partnerships and coalitions to see the Great Commission fulfilled. At Riverbend, we are certainly glad that God led us to partner with UWM, and we look forward to our next steps together.
By: Robbie McAlister, Senior Pastor at Riverbend Church