A new model of church and mission partnership

Grace Evangelical Free Church and ReachGlobal unite

This is a story that needs to be told” says Don Reynard of the partnership between ReachGlobal and Grace Evangelical Free Church of Lynchburg, Virginia.

Reynard, associate leader of ReachGlobal’s Europe division, was impressed by the church’s approach to ministry from the start. Warren Stewart, the church’s life group pastor, was also their missions pastor, a connection that meant Grace’s life groups served a natural training ground for ministry.

Not only has Grace served as a training ground for ministry, but it has been active in supporting and sending its members into international ministry. From its inception, Grace has had a desire to be focused and intentional in missions. As they pursued missions, they first focused on Kazakhstan, but, as pastor Mark Fesmire’s says, they “kind of wrote the book on what not to do” in sending out a team from the church. When Warren Stewart came on staff later, he desired to act on the lessons learned from the church’s previous struggles. “They could have gone in a couple directions; repeating their same mistakes, or just leaving cross-cultural ministry in the hands of professional mission organizations. Instead, they chose a better path– continuing to launch cross-cultural initiatives, but partnering with mission organizations to provide expertise they don’t have” says Reynard.

Preparing for the Long-Term

As Stewart renewed the church’s approach to missions, he focused on the island of Cyprus. The church began to take trips with the sole purpose of praying for the Cypriot people. In fall 2010, Grace sent a team to Cyprus for 9 months to learn what Cyprus was like year-round and to understand what it was like to have a team there. After going through these steps, the church knew that it was time to send a team for long-term ministry.

But they also knew they couldn’t do it alone.

“I have a conviction that agencies and churches need to work together” says Fesmire. “When you have an agency that does this well and knows what it’s doing, we need to listen to them. If the agency doesn’t feel a person is ready, that’s good. It’s our job to raise up and mature believers for the role, not the mission agency.”

In fact, Grace has been so active in raising up and maturing believers for ministry that they approached the two couples who make up the team and asked them to consider full-time missions. “This is not us ‘pulling’ people out of churches, but them ‘driving’ people out for ministry” reflects Reynard.

As Grace continued to pursue sending its people into full-time ministry in Cyprus, they looked for an organization to partner with them. They looked first to ReachGlobal, which seemed a natural fit for them as an Evangelical Free church.

Once the couples had been screened by ReachGlobal and became part of the Europe division, Don Reynard became involved. He and Warren Stewart established a high level of trust from the beginning, realizing that they both sought the same thing– for Grace’s couples to be “fully ReachGlobal” and not the “red-headed stepchildren” of a new sort of partnership.

A Win-Win Situation

Fesmire readily admits the process took time, “We needed to make sure our expectations were right. We didn’t want to pass them off and say ‘We’re out.'” But all agree that the partnership has been a “win-win” for ReachGlobal, Grace and the team.

The team is walking into a place that they and other members of the church have prayed over for 10 years. The church and team received encouragement and confirmation through ReachGlobal’s approval of the team. Both ReachGlobal and the team benefit because the church is involved in an “engaged initiative” in which they feel more committed and accountable to their team. ReachGlobal gains the passions and initiatives of a church and a team that has received solid training.

“It’s the hardest place we have people. There’s no guarantee. But it has the best chance of success because of how God has brought together the church and mission” Reynard concludes.

Moving Forward

Is your church interested in a sending partnership with ReachGlobal? Pastor Mark Fesmire advises “Have a long-term vision; don’t do it quickly. People need time to grow and become ready for this. Don’t be in a hurry; the foundation of prayer makes a huge difference. The leaders need to be united. To succeed, there must be organic and organizational ownership, not just a few dynamic leaders behind it.”

For more information, contact ReachGlobal.

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