Editor’s Note: This article is excerpted from a cover story by visionSynergy CEO, Kären Butler Primuth, in Mission Frontiers magazine, Mar-Apr 2017 issue. The issue includes many other powerful articles on collaboration!
God is now uniting the worldwide Church like never before to reach the unreached.
Over the past several decades, an increasingly interconnected and globalized world has given rise to hundreds of networks in every field of mission. Through these networks, ministries around the world are meeting, sharing information and resources, and collectively working together to respond to some of the greatest challenges and opportunities of our day. These mission networks are now playing a vital role in shaping Great Commission strategies and the future of the world mission movement.
Networks in Every Field of Mission
The landscape of mission networks today is staggering. There are hundreds of networks around the world covering a wide variety of mission fields at global, regional, national, and local levels. Each network draws together dozens if not hundreds of individuals and organizations around common areas of interest – whether that is a focus on particular geographic areas, people groups, mission strategies, or other issues.
The resource website Linking Global Voices currently tracks more than 500 different networks around the world. And many of these networks have sub-networks within them!
The Lausanne Movement, as one example, is organized around 12 geographic networks and an array of 37 separate global issue networks – from the Buddhist World to Business As Mission, from Diasporas to Disability Concerns, from Leadership Development to Least Evangelized Peoples.
Some mission networks function primarily for information sharing, while others are highly participatory, with members contributing resources toward collaborative projects and commonly-defined goals. A growing number of churches, ministries, and mission organizations see their participation in networks as essential to making informed decisions and fulfilling their own calling.
Four Positive Trends
There may still be thousands of mission groups and hundreds of thousands of local churches around the world who continue to go it alone in their ministry fields. Nevertheless, the good news is that collaboration is gradually becoming the default approach to ministry – from international mission agencies working together among the unreached to local churches working together in their communities.
There are four positive trends that point to a tectonic shift toward collaborative networks in the global mission community.
1. Increasing awareness of networks
There is a growing awareness of and openness to networks and partnerships among churches, ministries, and mission organizations around the world.
2. Donors investing directly in partnerships
The mission funding community is shifting more of their kingdom investments toward projects initiated by networks and partnerships. Many major donors now explicitly ask grantees how they are working in partnership with others to accomplish the goals of their project proposals.
3. Inter-network cooperation
Many networks share common operational challenges. Increasingly, representatives of multiple networks are coming together to share knowledge and address issues particular to multilateral mission networks such as information security and regionalization.
4. Collaboration-friendly organizations
There are thousands of churches and mission organizations which participate in networks around the world. The same individuals or organizations are often involved in multiple networks. The growing number of these collaboration-friendly organizations is a tremendous sign that the mission community is shifting to a new future.
As you explore and engage more deeply in mission networks, I am sure you will become convinced as I am that Christians are called to work together and that partnership is the single best strategy for addressing the most pressing needs in the world today. Collaboration is the key that reduces the duplication of our efforts, maximizes the impact of our ministries, and strengthens the credibility of our witness for Christ.
To read the full article, go to: http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/how-networks-are-shaping-the-future-of-world-mission