The concept of ministry partnership is rarely taught.
Most times we hear about it from TV ministries where at the end an announcer says:
“When you become a partner you’ll allow us to spread the Gospel to this country or that country.”
“If you partner with us, for your love gift of $25 you’ll receive…”
And human nature the way it is says:
“See! All these preachers want is my money!”
I used to say the saaaame thing.
Even online ministry advocating partnership is pretty prevalent:
And then if you click on a site about the site will tell you about the benefits of partnership, and the lives that can changed with a simple monthly donation.
And truth is, if they’re legitimate and good they’ll highlight what’s being done in the ministry.
And to a regular person–inundated with news about greedy ministers–this seems like nothing but an elaborate scheme.
Again: guilty as charged.
Fast forward to now: I understand now that partnership is a viable part of spreading the mission of God. Good stewards are part of spreading that mission–God increases good stewards.
What is Ministry Partnership?
The word “partnership” is derived from two words: “partner” and “ship.”
The word “partner” from an Old French word “parçonier” which mean “joint owner and/or joint heir.” The word “ship” comes from the Old English word “-sciepe” which means “state or condition of being.” Put them together the word literally means “the state of being a joint owner.”
In other words:
- “what you got I got”
- “if you go up I go up”
- “if you go down, I go down”
We understand this is terms of marriage, business, and friendship.
But rarely do we understand it in the context of giving and ministry.
When speaking to the Philippian church about this level of ministry partnership Paul said:
“But it was right and commendable and noble of you to contribute for my needs and to share my difficulties with me. And you Philippians yourselves well know that in the early days of the Gospel ministry, when I left Macedonia, no church (assembly) entered into partnership with me and opened up [a debit and credit] account in giving and receiving except you only.” (Philippians 4: 14-15 AMP)
Paul was basically saying they “partnered” with him through their giving. In that ministry partnership, they gave blessings and received them in return. Paul continued:
“For even in Thessalonica you sent [me contributions] for my needs, not only once but a second time. Not that I seek or am eager for [your] gift, but I do seek and am eager for the fruit which increases to your credit [the harvest of blessing that is accumulating to your account].” (Philippians 4:16-17 AMP)
Paul was happy about their giving.
He wasn’t happy because of the money per se but he was joyful about the “harvest of blessing” coming their way.
“But I have [your full payment] and more; I have everything I need and am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent me. [They are the] fragrant odor of an offering and sacrifice which God welcomes and in which He delights.” (Philippians 4:18-19 AMP)
Here’s the kicker: most people fight against this saying this kind of “partnership” is not of God.
But Paul calls ministry partnership a sacrifice which God welcomes and delights in. God is ALWAYS glorified by a person who loves to give–especially when their heart is in the giving.
It pleases Him to no end. And as you’ll see there are advantages to this kind of giving.
Why the the “Prophets Reward” is also YOUR Reward
Ministry partnership is not a new phenomenon.
It’s been woven through the pages of the Old and New Testament. Jesus Himself said,
“He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:41-42 KJV)
The word “receiveth” in verse 41 and 42 is in the present participle tense and it refers to a continuous or repeated action. It’s not a one time thing it is an ongoing partnership.
This kind of partnership is seen between the prophet Elisha and the Shunammite woman.
The woman saw that Elisha was a prophet and she went out of her way to provide for his needs. She didn’t ask him to, no “she constrained him to eat bread.” (2 Kings 4:8 KJV)
Did you get that?
She literally forced him to let her provide for his needs. In fact, the word “constrained” is also translated “laid hold on him!” In other words, she literally said “you better let me bless or else!”
But it didn’t stop there.
She was so convinced of his call that she used even more of her resources to provide for him. She was serious about a partnership! And because she was such a good partner Elijah had to make sure that she was blessed:
“Then he said to his servant Gehazi, ‘Tell the Shunammite woman I want to see her.’ He called her and she came to him. Through Gehazi Elisha said, ‘You’ve gone far beyond the call of duty in taking care of us; what can we do for you?’”
This kind of ministry partnership is seen in the ministry of Jesus. Women who were blessed by His ministry took it upon themselves to provide for Him:
“Soon afterward, [Jesus] went on through towns and villages, preaching and bringing the good news (the Gospel) of the kingdom of God. And the Twelve [apostles] were with Him, And also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had been expelled; And Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager; and Susanna; and many others, who ministered to and provided for Him and them out of their property and personal belongings.” (Luke 8:1-3 AMP)
It’s safe to say we’ve drifted from this kind of partnership.
Rather than people go out of their way to bless the man or woman of God the prophet is “fortunate” enough to be thrown leftover crumbs!
But Paul warns against this kind of selfishness:
“Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience. Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds!” (Galatians 6:6-7 MSG)
The fact is this: whoever has repeatedly sown into your life spiritual things should be blessed with material things. Not from obligation but out go gratitude and love knowing that such giving blesses God.
“Yeah…but Mike does it have to be ‘material things?!’ I mean can’t bless them with an encouraging word, a prayer, or etc.”
Let’s look at the Macedonian church who took it upon themselves to provide relief for the church at Jerusalem. Now most people would call that a nice thing but Paul calls it their duty:
“It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.” (Romans 15:27 KJV)
Did you get that? Paul said it is the duty (in love of course) for those who’ve been ministered to spiritually to give back materially.
Because they’re “partakers” (or partners).
But why stop there?
We talked about the Macedonian church let’s talk about Paul speaking to the Corinthian church:
“If we have sown [the seed of] spiritual good among you, [is it too] much if we reap from your material benefits?…Do you not know that those men who are employed in the services of the temple get their food from the temple? And that those who tend the altar share with the altar [in the offerings brought]? [On the same principle] the Lord directed that those who publish the good news (the Gospel) should live (get their maintenance) by the Gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:11, 13-14 AMP)
Paul made it clear that as a minister he had rights to be maintained by those who were blessed by his service.
“Well that’s a good point,” you might say. “But Paul says he never exercised those ‘rights.’”
If that’s the case, then why did he tell the Corinthians he “robbed” other churches to better serve them? (2 Corinthians 11:8)
Paul was basically saying that the other churches sustained him in ministry partnership so he wasn’t a burden to them.
Which is ironic, because the church at Corinth was wealthier than the other churches.
Bless the Person Who’s Duty is to Bless
We’ve fallen far in our practice of blessing those whom God has chosen for ministerial work.
The real “smart” ones will say that such a practice is good but not necessarily Biblical.
Totally overlooking the fact that Paul said,
“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” (1 Timothy 5:17 KJV)
They also overlook the fact that word “honor” is translated “a valuing, a price.” Even in more contemporary versions the meaning is clearer:
- In the Amplified: “Let the elders who perform the duties of their office well be considered doubly worthy of honor [and of adequate financial support], especially those who labor faithfully in preaching and teaching.”
- In the CEV: “Church leaders who do their job well deserve to be paid twice as much, especially if they work hard at preaching and teaching.”
- In the Living Bible: “Pastors who do their work well should be paid well and should be highly appreciated, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching.”
- In the Message: “Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching.”
- In the Phillips: “Elders with a gift of leadership should be considered worthy of respect, and of adequate salary, particularly if they work hard at their preaching and teaching.”
Granted it should be balanced–the Scripture is not talking solely about money. It is talking about the honor reserved for someone who has gone before and is leading the way. A reverential respect. But the equation of money shouldn’t be minimized.
It was also seen in King Saul.
When Saul’s father lost his donkeys, he sent Saul and one of the servants after them. After a while they couldn’t find them. Just when he was about to head back the servant suggested they visit the seer (or Samuel). Listen to Saul’s response:
“Then Saul said to his servant, ‘But look, if we go, what shall we bring the man? For the bread in our vessels is all gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?’” (1 Samuel 9:7 NKJV)
Did you get that?
He was more concerned about what he was going to give to the prophet than what he would get from him.
This was understood by the three kings who came to visit the baby Jesus. They didn’t dare come before this great King empty handed!
Even Christ when He entered the Perfect Tabernacle in heaven didn’t show up empty:
“With His own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” (Hebrews 9:12 NLT)
All of this is to say:
Be sure to bless those who have blessed you, fed you, and helped you.
These leaders watch over your souls.
Do what the Bible says,
“Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.” (Hebrews 13:17 NLT)
They are a blessing from God. Make sure that they know that. And make sure that you’re a blessing to them.
To be clear:
- I am not a minister.
- I am not asking for money.
- I have no financial incentive in writing this.
I had to put that out there.
This was written because tithing is an ancient principle of increase.
So are offerings. Those offerings should be put to use in ministries that are fruitful and impactful.
Ministry partnership is a way to share in the blessings of THAT ministry.
Those in who partner in ministry should expect to see a “prophet’s reward” or a “righteous man’s reward.
What are your thoughts on ministry partnership?