Polycentric Missions Should Include the Church

EMQ » January–April 2024 » Volume 60 Issue 1

Lagarto, Ecuador: A group of African American pastors meets with local communities to build relationships and explore partnership opportunities. Photo courtesy of IMB.

Summary: Immense global changes are affecting every aspect of missions. Missions models are getting flatter. And local churches are increasingly engaging in aspects of missions previously reserved only for mission agencies or large NGOs. Polycentric alliances offer a way for a wide range of mission participants, including churches, to work together to address missional challenges.

By Ellen Livingood, Matthew Philip, and Scott White

As change reshapes many aspects of missions today, a growing number of churches are hungering to engage in shared missional endeavors with others from literally all over the globe. Local churches are stepping up and into spaces that in the past were generally reserved for mission agencies and larger NGOs. Missions models are getting flatter and more complex as churches lean into more proximate engagement and discover opportunities to walk alongside others in global missions.

We believe that truly polycentric alliances offer a better way to engage the full range of resources God has invested in the variety of mission participants (including local churches), to better address today’s complex missional challenges. There are opportunities for polycentric missions and collaborative leaders to form more synergistic, multi-polar partnerships for greater kingdom impact.

We describe healthy polycentric missions as the engagement of multiple entities to become a relational community working together to achieve a shared, missional outcome. Further, polycentric missions recognizes the essential of reciprocity as each participating entity becomes a partner. As partners they not only contribute to the common purpose(s) that birthed the shared mission but also commit to helping each other flourish as they journey together.

Fulfilling these varied purposes requires a commitment to community, flexibility, and sacrificial generosity. The following examples illustrate the varying degrees of complexity and different organizational approaches polycentric missions can take.

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