Nation 2 Nation Partnership


Members of the Australian Presbyterian World Mission (APWM) with Rev Hiralal Solanki representing the Reformed Presbyterian Church of India who are in a partnership together.

The Nation 2 Nation programme is a practical response to IRFA’s commitment to being a ‘fellowship of churches’ rather than being a traditional missionary society. Our commitment is to a missiology that reflects the apostolic model of mission where the local church is the organisational base for global mission. We refuse to be fly by night evangelicals that impose their own brand of evangelism upon the mission field and either use the existing churches as a convenience or even bypass these churches regarding them as being second-rate.

The local church may be not as spectacular or as innovative as the well-financed missionary organisation coming in from outside. When all the glitz and glamour has subsided the local church remains as a quiet but forthright witness, discipling individuals and whole families for the entire span of their life even into many generations of Christians that have been raised up through the gospel ministry of the local church. As a church is planted, so the community of God’s people are discipled as the ‘priesthood of all believers’ who then reach out into the world through their family life, their workplace and even in the community institutions that they become involved in. Their focus is to disciple the nation that they are part of.

Foreign missionaries can be useful but can never replace the local Christian church.

Non indigenous missionaries remain foreign no matter how hard they adapt and learn the native language and customs. The local church prepares their own indigenous missionaries, being the membership of the local church, who are instinctively at one with their community, communicating in their own language, living at the same level of those whom they seek to reach with the gospel and living their Christian life through their culture. These churches should become self-supporting, self-propagating and self-governing.

With the rise of political nationalism it has become increasingly difficult for Western nations to be involved in missionary work that will in fact assist our brethren who are on the ground in the local churches of the Indian subcontinent. There has been a systematic expulsion of missionaries from India ever since independence in 1947. However, the transition from overseas missionaries from western nations leading Christian work to a national leadership has been difficult but remarkable as the church has grown rapidly from independence to the present day.

As Western churches see the grinding poverty that many of our brothers and sisters have to endure, the ‘quick fix’ is to send Western currency to these churches and Christian organisations. In fact, something of a ‘missionary industry’ has developed around these ‘quick fixes’ and unwittingly exploitative behaviour and even corrupt procedures have dominated the missionary scene on the Indian subcontinent. In fact, the same thing could be said for most of the traditional mission field countries, which have very favourable exchange rates, such as Southeast Asia, Africa and China. Even small amounts can translate into very substantial sums of money when hard currency from Western sources are exchanged into the local currency. Very often enterprising individuals see this opportunity and create a Christian ministry such as a school, orphanage, hospital or even church planting venture of which he or she becomes the single controlling director.

As a director of the organisation grows exploitative practices eventually take over and the ministry is developed to show the supporting churches that they are doing indigenous Christian work that looks fantastic when they visit or receive promotional reports. Over the years land and buildings are purchased with complete control given to the director. These properties  are owned by him or her and can be passed on to family members as complete owners. If a minister or pastor in our home church in Australia, United States, United Kingdom or the Netherlands, for example, personally owned all church property we would call that ‘corrupt’. Almost all independent Christian ministries that receive Western currency operates this way in India.

If we do not have a solution to this problem we will soon become disheartened and disengage from places like the Indian subcontinent. There is a very real biblical solution to this problem and that is the introduction of Presbyterian principles of government and ministry. It is very much more difficult to corrupt a group of elders and deacons that are properly constituted if they are in fellowship with a like-minded church and receiving Western assistance.

During the Reformation John Calvin of Geneva faced very similar challenges with an extremely corrupt church. Biblical and apostolic church government along presbyterial lines became extremely important for the reformers to introduce a system of ‘checks and balances’ so that individual profiteering could be controlled. The ownership of property was held in trust by the congregations of the local church and not by bishops or other extra-biblical church officials.

IRFA in the past 10 years has been requested to report on missionary support relationships that already exist among churches in India and churches in Australia, United States, United Kingdom, Singapore and the Netherlands. This has been conducted at an official level and as groups of churches develop a denominational perspective everyone becomes more accountable to each other and less exploitative. Elders are raised up alongside pastors with deacons who regularly meet and make decisions together as the ruling body within the local congregation and as appointed in Presbytery’s and Synods. Congregational members are received through a process of church membership based on baptism with profession of faith. Pastors are trained systematically and are ordained as churches become self-governing and self-supporting. The financial matters of the church are managed by the Deaconate and not the pastor. Congregations set up bank accounts, Ledger books, cash books and a system of vouchers and receipts are followed so that regular inspection can be made of all financial transactions.

These procedures give greater confidence for the supporting churches overseas who have faithfully granted support to church planting churches on the Indian subcontinent. These relationships develop on the basis that these church planting churches become self-supporting, self- propagating and self-governing over a period of 10 to 15 years. This support is deliberately reduced each year so that these churches take up their responsibility of bearing their own load financially. As a result these partnerships become far more than receiving a source of support for their pastor in the critical years of raising a church from the ground into a viable self-supporting church. These churches become genuine partners and there is a cross fertilisation going on as the zeal and passion of the mission church flows into the established church that is supporting them in varying degrees.

Some examples of the Nation 2 Nation programme as follows: