Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Strategic Alliances

A few months ago I had the privilege of attending a 3-day workshop on "Strategic Alliances" sponsored by COMIBAM ("Cooperación Misionera Iberoamericana" or "Ibero-american Missionary Cooperation"), an initiative to facilitate the cooperation of evangelical missionary organizations and movements in all of the countries of Latin America, as well as Spain and Portugal. At this meeting, there was a cross-denominational representation of evangelical workers from various countries. Out of a group of about thirty, I was one of two from the United States.

The working definition of "Strategic Alliance" we used was the following:

A close working relationship between individuals and/or organizations that agree to work together for a specific purpose because they can accomplish more working together than separately.

There are many different types and degrees of Strategic Alliances. The SBC Cooperative Program, for example, is, in my opinion, one very effective Strategic Alliance. Local ministry teams on the mission field are another type of Strategic Alliance. The important thing is that all over the world, among the larger Body of Christ, there are countless opportunities for Strategic Alliances that allow us as God’s people, to "accomplish more working together than separately."

The Roman Catholic Church is, in a sense, one giant worldwide Strategic Alliance. In addition to the many important doctrinal errors they embrace, which, in in my opinion, essentially invalidate a good part of the authenticity of their supposed Gospel witness, I feel that the monolithic Roman Catholic ecclesiological system in the end squelches the creativity and spiritual vitality that flow out of the baptistic or "free church" concepts of local church autonomy and soul competency.

However, the RCC in some ways has a distinct advantage over many of us as evangelicals, in that, their "universal" concept of the Church and its worldwide organization allow them in some aspects to have a leg up on us in wise stewardship of resources. If, for example, the material needs of one parish are especially pressing, the rest of the diocese will contribute from their overall budget to help out. By the same token, if the needs of the "Church" in one part of the world are especially pressing, those who call the shots at the Vatican have the ability to see that an appropriate amount of help arrives from their vast treasure of resources to those who, at least theoretically, need it most.

As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, I believe it is a given that we should strive to be the best stewards possible of the resources he entrusts to us for the extension of his Kingdom. The Roman Catholic system, while offering some important advantages, in the end, due to the reasons mentioned above, is, in my opinion, not the best solution. For many of the same reasons, I believe that the organizational ecumenical movement embodied in the World Council of Churches is not the best solution either.

Up to recently, we as Southern Baptists participated as members of the Baptist World Alliance. In any Strategic Alliance, the time comes when one must decide whether what is gained is greater than what is given up. If I have understood correctly, those who made the decision to withdraw from the BWA did so for many of the same reasons we as Southern Baptists do not participate in the WCC, that is, a lack of overall doctrinal and philisophical compatibility to justify such cooperation. As I do not have access to all of the information that went into making this decision, I prefer to withhold judgment at this time as to whether it was a good decision or not.

What I do believe is that, in order to be the best stewards possible of God’s Kingdom resources, we as Southern Baptists need to do everything possible towards becoming less isolationist and more "World Christians" in our mindset. We must continue to be willing to dialogue with Baptist Unions and Conventions in other parts of the world about wise allocation of resources. We must be open to their suggestions. In my opinion, we must also continue to dialogue and cooperate with other Evangelical organizations, with headquarters in the USA or elsewhere, with a view towards "accomplishing more working together than separately." As mentioned in a previous post, we are all "playing on the same team" with the same ultimate goal in mind. Thus, it behooves us to think together as a team, and allocate our joint resources in such a way so as the overall objectives of the team are most benifitted. We need to seek for more and more ways to think creatively "out of the box," with more and more of a heart to see the entire world won for Christ, and more and more disiciples made from more and more peoples of the world.

As pointed out on another previous post, there are also pitfalls along the way, such as unhealthy dependency, to be avoided (see also Ken Sorrell’s posts on the R.I.N. Strategy of Missions). What we don’t need to do, though, as a result, is "stick our heads in the sand," continually narrowing our parameters of cooperation with other Great Commission Christians, defending our denominational distinctives, and building up our denominational and many times ethno-centric programs.

7 comments:

Ken Sorrell said...

First, welcome back!

I will admit that there is much on this topic that I do not understand. I agree with you that we do not need to move to an isolationists position but rather look for opportunities to partner with others for a greater good. One challenge may be to see if we can agree on what that greater good might be.

From a local Baptist perspective in the states, many churches are pulling away from associational alliances because they no longer receive enough back for the investment they put in. Does a strategic alliance mean that all parties will gain equally through the alliance?

Based upon the definition you quoted from CONIBAM, then individual entity gains should be overshadowed by the greater gain of working together. Do we truy have the mindset to see this happen?

Lastly, would you make a distinction between a strategic alliance to achieve a momentary advance while at the same time not encouraging a long-term relationship? Keep writing. This is helping me think through these issues a little more clearly.

mr. t said...

I think strong alliances can become less strategic over time without regular evaluation. If we no longer see desirable outcomes, then we are justified in going separate ways.

We can partner in areas where we share the same vision, while at the same time not involving ourselves where we disagree. If we partner only with those in total agreement about everything, we don't have partners, only followers. Partners are equals that respect one another as they work toward mutual goals and benefits. Partnership should accomplish both, the greater good and edification of all parties.

dwm III said...

Because you stumbled on my blog I decided to check yours out. I am very happy to see that we have similar views about the SBC and missions. I am still green behind the ears with actual missionary experience so my views tend to be a little idealistic. I look forward to seeing your blog in the future as it seems that you have more experience in these things then I do.

Through Christ,
dwmiii

Alan Knox said...

Thank you for your post. I have read your comments on other blogs, and I appreciate the spirit of what I have read. I am very interested in how the church can work together and relate to one another. Your testimony is encouraging. Thank you again, and may God continue to work through you to increase His kingdom and bring glory to His name!

David Rogers said...

Ken,

Thanks for your comments and questions. I believe there are all shades and colors of Strategic Alliances. Some more long-term and some more short-term. And we all need to be more concerned about the overall advance of the Kingdom, and comparatively less about our particular corner of the Kingdom.

mr. t,

Well said. I agree.

Bryan Riley said...

I agree. It is critical that we unite with the entire Body of Christ in fulfilling the Great Commission and believe that the mission field is the place where we share a common goal and vision, regardless of some non-essential doctrinal differences. I also believe that we can show the world God's glory through such unity and that it would be an answer to the prayer of our Lord in John 17. We don't demonstrate love with all our quibbling, but what a testimony it would be to see multiple groups come together with a single vision.

I'm not sure what all a "strategic alliance" entails, but it sounds strangely formal and man-made. Could you help your less knowledgeable readers understand what you mean by this?

I posted the following on my blog a week or so ago:

Isn't it great how God's purpose is woven through the entire bible? And, isn't it great that we get to participate in that purpose and be made whole through doing so? God reveals to us in Matthew 24 that things will be brought to completion when the gospel is preached to all the world. And, Jesus prayed for us in John 17, asking that we may all be as one, just as Jesus and the Father are as one. All too often we stop at the oneness Christ prayed for and forget why Jesus prayed that for us. The reason was so that the world would believe that Jesus was truly sent by God, the Father. So, I don't think it is too much of a leap to say that if we really want to fulfill the Great Commission and see the gospel brought to the entire world, all Christians, not just any one denomination, must work together to see it through. God will be greatly glorified when men and women who are a part of the body of Christ from a diversity of denominational backgrounds come together with a single purpose, to proclaim the good news to the Nations. I wish we would lay down our fine sounding arguments and carry the message of Christ together to all the world. Does anyone out there have some ideas about how we can make this happen???

One thought I have is that there are some 40000 SBC churches in the US alone. Depending on the most recent figures you follow, that could be between 7 and 10 churches for every unreached people group. If you add to the SBC other evangelical churches/denominations, you quickly could have groups of 20, 30, or 50 churches all adopting a single people group, sending forth teams of missionaries, equipped, anointed, prayed over and for, etc.

Perhaps I am a dreamer or naive, but I don't see why we don't just do this. Let's keep it simple, obey, and trust that God won't be slow in keeping His promises.

David Rogers said...

Bryan,

I love what you posted. I can see we are thinking on the same line.

Strategic Alliances are not really that complicated of a concept. It is basically one step beyond networking, where you are not just communicating with others in order to share information and resources, but are actually working together on a shared objective. There are many shapes and colors. In up-coming posts I will probably be giving a few specific examples, and maybe that will help you to get a better grasp on what I am talking about.

Blessings,

David