The Riches of Missional Church Partnership


Editor’s note: For those in the West, “partnership” with the global church has often been perceived as sending Westerners to do outreach overseas. The idea of partnership, however, is much broader and richer than this. There are many ways to pursue fruitful partnership, most of which involve investment in long-term relationships. Although building partnership is not quick or simple work, it is worthwhile, and offers a chance to help the Western church rejoice as they are reminded of how God is working across the globe.

At a time when the American evangelical church is greatly divided over a host of issues, missional church partnering for ministry in China offers great riches in the form of expanding the horizons of the body of Christ. Such partnership can rally the church together behind an important vision. American churches unfamiliar with the church in China can begin to learn from first-hand testimonies about the challenges and victories of our brothers and sisters on the other side of the globe. This serves to strengthen the congregation’s scope and understanding of the world-wide body of Christ, while also casting vision for the next generation of young missionaries in our U.S. congregations.

What Does Successful Partnership Look Like?

“What would it look like if a house church in China were to partner with American churches?

What would it look like if a house church in China were to partner with American churches? I’ve been asked this several times over the last decade or so. The question sounds simple, but a host of follow-up questions pop into my head: is the church in the States ethnically Chinese, or is it primarily a non-Chinese, English-speaking congregation? If it is the latter, then what is meant by the word “partner”? For example, let’s say that our definition of “partnership” is for a U.S. congregation to find some meaningful way to help a Chinese house church in need.

A few years back, China Partnership helped broker this kind of partnership between a large American church and a house church pastor and his wife. The Chinese couple came to the States for an extended period to live with and observe the U.S. congregation’s worship, activities and leadership. With the American congregation’s help in hosting their stay, the couple was able to learn a great deal from how this large congregation nurtured, discipled, and interacted as a covenant community. Since the house church pastor had many years of campus ministry experience but was relatively inexperienced in pastoral ministry, the partnership helped him see how pastoral ministry could be conducted on a practical level. After the trip, the couple returned to China. Upon follow-up, they reported several areas where they were greatly blessed and where their pastoral ministry was enhanced by the visit.

“In addition to communication and navigating expectations, a host of security concerns must be successfully addressed.

Facilitating Cross-Cultural Relationships

Partnership could also involve a greater level of give-and-take between U.S. congregations and Chinese house churches. To navigate this kind of partnership, at least one person must act as the “bridge.” This bridge facilitates complex cross-cultural communication, not only through language, but also with expectations. In addition to communication and navigating expectations, a host of security concerns must be successfully addressed before such a partnership could take place.

Never miss a story

Sign up to receive our weekly email with our original articles.

In looking for someone who can serve in this bridge role there are a few options. Candidates to serve in this role could possibly be a seasoned missionary in China who is fluent in Chinese and English. Given the current situation, the number of these is dwindling quickly. Perhaps a more likely person to serve as a bridge would be a returnee who has been abroad, and who understands both cultures and languages. Assuming this person is a mature Christian, this can work quite well. Several years ago while serving in China, I helped a U.S. church that was involved with China Partnership find a returnee to act as a bridge in helping them partner with a local house church in ministry. The relationship worked well, because the returnee was fluent in Chinese and English, knew American and Chinese culture, and helped the church navigate expectations with the church partnership.

Long-Term Rewards are Worth the Investment

“Churches should maintain a long-term mindset as they build and develop the partnership. The spiritual dividends are well worth the investment.

A word of caution: these partnerships work best if they are nurtured over time. American pragmatism needs to be tempered with the Asian mindset of building relationships over a much longer period. It is common for relationships involving Chinese and Americans to be more similar to the first definition of partnership rather than the second, primarily because the second type of partnership is more complex and happens more naturally over time.

Keeping these thoughts in mind and being aware of the challenges should not discourage churches from pursuing both types of partnership. After assessing which style of partnership is desired and feasible, churches should maintain a long-term mindset as they build and develop the partnership. The spiritual dividends are well worth the investment.

For many churches, these partnerships may not be immediately accessible through direct contact with a house church in China. If this is the case, a U.S. congregation should consider partnering with a local Chinese church in the States as they seek to reach out and form a relationship with a Chinese house church. The bridge function is built-in with this kind of partnership, since the American Chinese congregation is much more likely to be able to navigate communication, expectations, and security concerns. Things to be aware of with this model of partnership are language issues (Cantonese congregations may feel less equipped to minister in Mandarin) and culture issues (Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are very different from one another, both politically and culturally). Many Chinese churches have both Mandarin-speaking, Cantonese-speaking, and English-speaking congregations within one larger congregation.

There are a host of voices challenging the legitimacy of Western missionaries and questioning whether we need missionaries at all. Some of the concerns raised in these discussions are legitimate and important. The Western church needs to recognize the mistakes of the past, humbly admit and repent of historical wrongdoings, and look at “younger churches” (such as the Chinese house church) from a posture of learning what they can teach us. The relationship between China and the West should be one of partnership on equal footing. So what is a good answer to the question? Does China still need partnership with the church in the U.S.?  The best way to answer this is to ask the house church in China. From them, I hear a resounding “yes.

Urban Farmer is a pseudonym used by an American who works to support and strengthen the Chinese house church. 



Prayerfully consider whether God is calling you and your church to pursue this type of missional partnership with the Chinese house church.

Share This Story

Further Reading

Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
Read More
Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
Read More
Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
Read More


With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.


  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church



About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.


Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.


Stories from Qingdao

About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.


Stories from Xiamen

About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.


Stories from Chongqing

About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.


Stories from Nanjing

About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.


Stories from Changchun

About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.


Stories from Guangzhou

About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.


Stories from Kunming

About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.


Stories from Shenzhen

About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 


Stories from Chengdu

About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.


Stories from Beijing

About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.


Stories from Shanghai


A short message about partnering with us.