A New Kind of Partnership
I am a Thai-Chinese American, born and raised in New York City, and by God’s grace, I have been called to serve in Christ as a missionary. I love the city. Presently, I serve in a city of over 12 million people. Just ~0.5% of the population identify themselves as a followers of Christ. More people are being prostituted than are worshipping God. A little over 400 churches exist in this global city. So many more churches need to be planted. This city is Bangkok, Thailand.
When I think about partnership in this great city, I have mixed feelings. We just finished our first term on the field, and I have to be honest and say that it is critical that the Thai church have partnership, but the majority of oversea churches, organizations, and ministries who are partnering with Thai Christians come with their own agendas and goals.
Over and over again, my observations show me that after the initial excitement of starting something new, they must soon face the realities and difficulties of ministry in the city. Partnerships quickly dissolve and the Thai church is left weaker and more disillusioned. I hate to say this, but I feel like my people, my Thai brothers and sisters in Christ have fallen victim to spiritual prostitution. Therefore, it is so important that we approach partnerships with understanding, humility, and faithfulness. I want to share an example of partnership that has me excited and has become my main focus and work.
My family landed in Bangkok over three years ago, and partnered with a local church that was planted over 20+ years ago. It was originally a college ministry turned church plant and that transition proved to be difficult. We felt our ministry directed towards pastoral care and church revitalization. After three years, we realized our efforts could not reverse the problems surrounding the church. But starting in January 2016, a unique partnership was established.
A church in center city Bangkok whose focus is on a Gospel movement of churches in the city, offered us a fascinating proposal. With a deep understanding and knowledge of our university campus church, the church in center city Bangkok offered a season of Sabbath. Simply put, this meant we would merge temporarily and later replant our university campus church. This offer provided rest, resources, leadership, and re-envisioning with no strings attached, except that this partnership would result in a replant. I became one of the leaders at the church in center city Bangkok in the transition.
This experiment has been very encouraging. Members of our university campus church, who showed no interest to serve, now desire to lead. Over and over again we hear people confess how sweet the Gospel of Grace is and how it has transformed their lives. New structures and leadership have been established with unanimous support. From a sullen and tired atmosphere, the church is excited, committed, and hopeful of the future. We anticipate launching our university campus church in late 2017.
So what has this unique experience taught me about partnership?
- The goal must be the Gospel in understanding and expansion.
- Clear intentionality and purpose must be communicated.
- There must be clarity on both sides of expectations and benefits.
- A clear sacrifice must be made on both sides to establish the partnership.
- Time and flexibility are keys to ongoing success.
- Trust and mutual submission to one another must be exercised for Christ’s glory.
By: Rawee, Serving in Thailand