Filling the Gaps

World Mission Report

Filling the Gaps

by David Smale, Managing Editor of the World Mission Report

Nehemiah 3 tells a great story about how the Israelites, who had spent nearly 50 years in captivity, returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall that was left in ruins at the time they were taken captive. Verse by verse chronicles how each family worked on its section of the wall, while defending against potential adversaries. The wall was built in 52 days, far quicker than anyone expected. It was done because everyone worked together.

God is a God of networking. The Bible is full of examples of working together to accomplish great things. God certainly is the engine behind the work, but He ordains cooperation.

The catch-phrase that is so prevalent in the business world—networking—is just as important in the Kingdom. Churches and parachurch organizations are discovering how working together beats trying to do it on their own.

Many churches, instead of sending money to a bunch of missionaries, focus their attention and resources on just a few partners.

Cedar Ridge Christian Church in Lenexa, a church of about 400 regular attendees, has just two foreign missions partners. The first—Life In Abundance in eastern Africa—has been in place almost as long as the church has existed.

A group of a little more than 100 people started the church in fall 1997 with a desire to have a stronger focus on missions and outreach. Before they hired their first pastor the next spring, they had established a relationship with Dr. Florence and Festus Muindi, Ethiopian nationals who were preparing to serve in Kenya. The Muindis lived in the Kansas City area for a few months while they raised their long-term support.

The second partner—PROeM in central Poland—has been in place since 2004.

The church sends at least one team each year to each partner to help do ministry. It’s about more than just writing a check. Members of Cedar Ridge are on the ground, rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty with ministry staff.

But it’s not just volunteers working side-by-side. Both ministries have members of their international boards of directors who are members of Cedar Ridge. Cedar Ridge also has members serving long-term ministry positions with PROeM.

“Our partners are part of our church,” says lead pastor Brian Wright. “We don’t look at them as outsiders we’re helping. They are us.”

Cedar Ridge’s two partners not only share that distinction, they are now working together, despite being a continent apart. Last February, PROeM hosted a ministry conference. It was a gathering of ministry staff and volunteers from around Poland, the U.S. and the world. They discussed how churches can make an impact their communities. The main speaker and roundtable leader was Florence Muindi, whose ministry is geared around equipping churches to impact their communities economically, socially, medically, educationally and in many other ways. The principles shared translated across language and cultural barriers.

That’s partners partnering with partners, Pardner.

Cedar Ridge’s focus on partnering has not changed in the 14 years since the church began, but it has been refined. Big on acronyms, CRCC uses P.A.I.L., which stands for Partnerships: Awareness, Involvement, Leadership. Partnerships are successful, because the church believes that 100 percent of the congregation should be aware of who the partners are and what they do.

The goal for involvement of the congregation in missions work is 50 percent, whether that means taking a trip overseas or supporting those who are going financially, or both. (They have toyed, only slightly facetiously, with the idea of requiring prospective members to have a passport.) Leadership is key, to accomplish the first two goals.

The church leadership believes that partnership involves C.O.A.R., another acronym that stands for Care, Outreach, Accountability and Review. Care means “providing prayer and encouragement through member involvement with our Global and U.S. partners.”

Outreach involves “short-term trip opportunities and conferences to help equip participants for ministry and support the needs of our partners.” Accountability means a “review of supported ministries’ finances...” And Review means “assessing and evaluating requests for new support as well as current partnerships.”

“Our philosophy at Cedar Ridge is that we don’t have all the answers,” Wright says. “We know what we do well, and one of those things is finding ministries that fill in the gaps and working with them.”

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