A Common Mission: Healthy Patterns in Congregational Mission Partnerships
by David Wesley
Wipf and Stock. 2014.
—Reviewed by Alexander K. Zell, adjunct professor, Crown College, St. Bonifacius, Minnesota; former international worker in Brazil with The Alliance.
Portuguese-speaking Christian leaders from Angola asked Brazilian Christian leaders to come and strengthen them through theological education. They were recovering from twenty-seven years of civil war where schooling was all but lost. Brazilian church leaders agreed to help and asked North American seminary professors who spoke Portuguese to join them on this requested mission to a third country. I was one of those teachers. Although everyone involved spoke the same language, there were cultural issues from three peoples to take into account. This experience inspired me to read David Wesley’s book with great interest.
Don’t you wish someone would give you guidelines for mission partnerships with a sister church overseas? People today want to get personally involved. However, as this phenomenon grows, there is a great need to train leaders on how to interact with people of other cultures to make an impact for the Kingdom of God.
This thin book delivers several essential principles to create or maintain a cross-cultural partnership without creating dependency. It is simple enough to be read in one sitting, but complex enough to be studied in groups to apply its principles. Wesley’s responsibilities and travels in South America, as well as his doctoral study of partnerships in Swaziland, equipped him with the experience necessary to focus on connecting through mutual trust, cooperation, and accountability among peers.
Wesley brings some refreshing contributions to the partnership table. He proposes a mutuality of the church on mission, or in the words of the author, to work together for “a common mission.” This is a crucial principle which neutralizes personal agendas from all parties. Wesley is not content with compassionately alleviating symptoms and empathetic helping to meet immediate needs. Instead, he urges his readers to prioritize community development which reforms the deeper structures of the community (p. 46). It takes more time to develop these systems, but they have much more impact in the long run.
Although other authors have dealt with issues of power struggles, Wesley forms the key question of partnerships, which to him is, “Who sets the agenda?” (p. 53). In order to show respect to brothers and sisters of another people group, Wesley recommends that cultural brokers for congregational partnerships be assigned to stay in the host country for two years to concentrate on building relationships between two or more groups (pp. 58-69). These cultural negotiators are not just tour guides or logistical coordinators, but they should have “theological and missiological understanding” (p. 59).
Wesley even addresses my introductory situation of people from two cultures working together in a third culture (p. 75). Because of all these factors, I would recommend this book to everyone who wants to understand and participate in cross-cultural mission partnerships.
EMQ, Vol. 51, No. 4 pp. 452, 454. Copyright © 2015 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.