How much theological agreement is necessary in a partnership between a local church and a foreign missionary?
- It depends. The answer to that question depends on what a church and a missionary are partnering to do. For instance, partnering together to distribute copies of the Bible or to make an audio recording of the Scriptures in another language requires less theological like-mindedness than partnering together to plant churches.
- None without the gospel. That said, no one should partner with those who do not believe the biblical gospel for any purpose. That may seem like a truism, but throughout the twentieth century, evangelical Christians partnered for missions with professing Christians who denied the biblical gospel.
- For church planting, lots! For a more intensive partnership, such as one that aims at church planting in another country, there should be a very high level of theological agreement. A church and a missionary should agree not only about the gospel but about the authority of Scripture, the nature and government of a local church, the proper subjects of baptism, doctrines that uphold the gospel such as election and effectual calling, and more.
- Agree on practical stuff, too. Not only that, but such theological agreement must lead to practical agreement about what faithful evangelism and pastoral ministry actually look like. In other words, the theological agreement between a church and a missionary must be functional, not simply confessional.
(Some of this material has been adapted from Ed Roberts’ article “Missions Partnerships from a Field Worker’s Perspective”)