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Our Partners

In 2012 we decided to join ADVANCE - a movement of churches PARTNERING together to advance the Gospel through planting and strengthening churches.

The name Advance is a practical way of describing our partnership, and expresses our primary purpose of taking new ground for the Gospel in cities and nations. The three key words in our vision statement correspond to three key things we see the Apostle Paul and the churches that he served, eagerly pursue:

PARTNERING

Partnering is a biblical word used to describe both church leaders working together and churches working together (2 Cor 8:23 and Phil 1:5). Paul was committed to help churches partner together on meaningful mission and in warm relationship.

Although Paul wanted mature churches that could stand on their own two feet, he equally promoted interdependence, not independence in (at least) the following areas: mission to the poor, church planting, foundation-laying, and leadership appointment (such as being meaningfully involved in the process of identifying and appointing elders). He boasted about churches to other churches, and regularly used the language of “fellow workers.”

This means we are committed to a meaningful and warm partnership, as opposed to a nominal partnership.

We believe that this approach is what New Testament churches enjoyed under Paul’s leadership, and it honours Body theology; and is of course healthier, stronger and more sustainable than going it alone. Thinking in concentric circles, we want a local church’s eldership team to feel a deep connection with Advance, the wider leaders to feel a decent connection with Advance, and the wider congregation to feel a reasonable connection with Advance.

Regarding partnering around church planting, although a certain church may lead the charge in a certain church plant, we believe in sharing the privilege, risk and responsibility together as far as possible. To this end we try to train, resource and plant churches together.

PLANTING

As much as he was committed to healthy and strong churches (quality), Paul was equally committed to planting and growing churches (quantity). He even defined his own ministry in terms of seeing people come to faith (Rom 1:16, Rom 15:20, 2 Cor 10:16).

This means that we are not only committed to strengthening and growing churches, but also to church planting. There are two main ways that we do this:

Firstly, we run ACPC (Advance Church Planters Course), which is a two-year training course for current and potential church planters, and existing church leaders and elders wanting to revisit their foundations. ACPC also involves an assessment process to help the individual be sure of his calling.

Secondly, all partner churches give financially to current or future church plants.

STRENGTHENING

As much as he was committed to quantity – planting and growing churches, Paul was equally committed to quality - healthy and strong churches. The same apostle who yearned for the Romans to join him in the quantity work of reaching “regions beyond” (Rom 15:22-24), did so on the back of a 16- chapter epistle expounding the quality aspects of the Christian life.

Paul’s “movement” aimed far higher than merely being a church-planting movement. Paul had a body of truth that he taught “everywhere in every church” that he considered “foundational” (1 Cor 3:10, 4:17). He yearned not just for more churches to be planted but for Christ to be formed in them (Gal 4:19). And his view of a strong church went well beyond theological accuracy: he longed for elders to be quality elders (1 Tim 3, Titus 1), for spiritual gifts to operate in meetings in a wise yet powerful way (1 Cor 12, 14), and even that church members get on well (Phil 4:2).

This means we are committed to helping our churches be healthy and strong in theology, leadership, atmosphere, practice and above all, in growing genuine disciples. This doesn’t mean that we meddle, but it does mean we urge the elders of each church to a lot more than merely church growth and church planting. We help provide a ‘plumbline’ of doctrine and values (see the next section) that the local elders are responsible for applying to their local context. For example, we promote churches that are broadly Reformed, Spirit-empowered, missional and Gospel-centred, but the local elders are responsible for outworking these plumbline truths in their context.

This also means we are committed to helping elders and their churches reach real maturity, as well as provoke them to real mission (Rom 1:11-12, 15:14). Our movement does not primarily exist to help churches through issues. This may well happen, but it happens as a means to the end of maturity.

Reducing a movement to a mere trouble-shooting agency perpetuates a culture of dependency and immaturity, usually ending up with church leaders disillusioned when the movement doesn’t provide the things that they should never have been looking for the movement to provide in the first place.

Our Values

1. THEOLOGICAL ALIGNMENT ON KEY DOCTRINES

Gospel-Centred

The Gospel is the Centre. The Gospel refers to the “metanarrative” of the whole Bible – which spans creation, the fall, redemption and ultimately, restoration. Jesus is the One who holds this narrative together. Who He is and what He has done is the nucleus of Scripture. This is why the Gospel should enjoy unrivalled centrality in the life of every church and believer.

The Gospel gives me both new life in a moment and a new lifestyle over time. It is both the diving board of faith, as well as the water in which the church swims.

The Gospel declares that salvation is the work of God. The Father set His love upon us before creation. The Son’s life, death and resurrection achieved our salvation. The Spirit effects God’s saving work by giving us new birth and faith. He assures of us our eternal security as a child of God, and empowers a changed life. In summary, God saves from first to last. This excludes boasting on our part and magnifies His sovereign grace, while not at all negating the key role we play in receiving and working out our salvation.

Applying this, we seek to be God-centred and grace-saturated. We believe that emphasising and resting upon the sovereign grace of God is the secret to the church’s holiness, humility, happiness and hard work.

Spirit-Empowered

The Bible describes individual Christians as temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19) and the Church as being a house in which God lives by his Spirit (Eph 2:22). Therefore, we acknowledge the vital role of the Holy Spirit today, believing local churches should be in eager and intelligent pursuit of the presence, power, fruit and gifts of God’s Spirit as mentioned in the Bible for the benefit of both believers and enquirers.

Missional

We believe that the local church is intended by God to be active in winning the lost to Christ, and an outward-looking mission agency that positively impacts society (Matt 28:19-29, Acts 1:8). To this end, we encourage each other to lifestyles of personal mission. We also aim to equip believers to be salt and light in all sectors of society. This will include attention to social justice, and other city-serving initiatives.

Cross-Cultural

We encourage local churches to pursue a diversity of cultures, languages and age groups. We believe diversity better displays the glory of God and His Gospel than homogeneity does. Jesus crossed cultures to come and save us, and His Cross has broken down hostility not only between Man and God, but also between races, making us “one new man” in Christ (Eph 2:13-19). This will be on display in eternity and we want to put it on display right now: “By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9).

Elder-led

The apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, adopted the term elders from the government of Israel and used it to designate the group of men who governed a local church. Although the apostles led the Jerusalem local church in the early days, by Acts 11:30 elders are mentioned, and the trend thereafter in the Book of Acts was essentially apostles appointing local elders to lead these local churches (Acts 14:23, Acts 20:28, 1 Tim 5:17, 1 Tim 3, Titus 2, 1 Pet 5). We believe that a local church eldership team should be led by an elder who is “first amongst equals,” and that elders should be male.

Complementarian

The biblical teaching that men and women are equal in worth and interdependent, yet different in role, is known as Complementarianism. Applying this truth in the church, we believe that the Bible reserves eldership for men, but all other leadership positions are open both to men and women. Ultimately, we all desire to see our churches flourish as all the gifts God has placed in both men and women are released.

2. SHARED MISSION

Differing slightly from the above-mentioned value of local churches being missional, shared mission refers to our broader mission of partner churches working together to fulfil our vision of planting and strengthening churches, and more effectively impacting our neighbourhoods, cities, cultures and the nations. We express our shared mission by:
1. Helping churches contextualise the gospel to their culture.
2. Helping churches grow.
3. Helping churches be meaningfully involved in church planting.
4. Helping assess, train and position church planters and leaders.
5. Encouraging cross-pollination of best ideas and practice.
6. Provoking churches to pray for gospel advance (Rom 15:30-31).
7. Provoking and coordinating finances for church planting.

3. WARM RELATIONSHIP

The New Testament shows leaders and churches in warm relationship with each other, with the prevailing metaphor for the church being that of family. Family is never at the expense of mission, but neither is mission at the expense of family. With the pressures of a busy world and an expanding movement, we need to be clear that the relational aspect of church partnership is a biblical imperative, or else it is easy to opt for a less relational style. We pursue warm relationships because:

God is truly a relational God.

God’s plan has always been to fill the earth through families (Gen 1:28, 12:2-3).

The New Testament church couldn’t think about God without thinking about father, nor about church without thinking about family (Eph 3:14-15, 1 Tim 5:1-2).

The New Testament bandwidth of relationships ranged from brotherly connection on one side (2 Tim 1:2, 1 Cor 4:17) through to seasoned fathers like Paul on the other (1 Cor 4:15-16), but never to a purely functional or corporate atmosphere. Paul encouraged church leaders to lead their churches in a family manner (1 Tim 5:1-2) and sometimes referred to the churches he partnered with as his children. It was on that basis that he felt he had authority to encourage, comfort and urge them to live lives worthy of God (1 Thes 2:6-8, 11-12).

Paul even displayed concern for the leader’s physical health (1 Tim 5:23) and often ended his letters with lists of personal greetings and messages to people in the church that he had got to know over years of involvement.

Partner church leaders respond quickly and warmly to emails and other forms of movement communication.

4. RECOGNISED LEADERSHIP

The gift of leadership is necessary for any group of people to move together, whether a family, a church or a movement of churches. Although we will often use colloquial phrases such as “mentors,” “coaches,” or “movement leaders,” we believe an apostolic gift is best suited to lead a movement of churches, a gift mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-13 alongside other gifts that few deny are valid for today. The apostolic gift (and the other Ephesian 4 gifts) are all essential for the Church to become all that God intends for her to be. Paul spoke of this gift as “first” (1 Cor 12:28, Eph 2:20) probably because of its foundation-laying role (Rom 15:20, 1 Cor 3:10-11, Eph 2:20) and its pioneering role, to break open new contexts to the gospel and church planting.

Although the Bible never actually uses the word team, the concept is most certainly in the Bible. God himself is a team, Jesus usually had a team around him and always sent his disciples out two-by-two, and the Apostle Paul was constantly working with teams of different shapes and sizes (see Acts 13; 16:6,10; 17:14-15; 18:7-8; 18:18-19; 19:22; 19:29 & 20:1-6). Additionally, Paul often enlarged his team when working into particular cities to include other men and women that he often referred to as “fellow workers,” such as Priscilla and Aquila (Rom 16:3; Acts 18:19), Andronicus and Junius (Rom 16:7), Urbanus (Rom 16:9), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2), Clement (Phil 4:3), and Artemas and Tychicus (Titus 3:12). This pattern of teamwork was also modelled by other apostles (Acts 3:1, 10:23, 8:14, 15:39).

Common sense and experience also makes valid reasons for team including accountability, friendship, strength and breadth of gifting, and sustainability, and it is interesting to note that when finances were involved, the plurality of accountability was stressed (Acts 4:34-35; 6:1-6, 11:27-30 & 2 Cor 8:16-22).

We take leadership and team seriously, sometimes even foregoing opportunities for speedy advance for the sake of strength of team such as Paul did in 2 Cor 2:12-13.
The Advance Leadership Team (ALT) provides guiding leadership to our partnership in Southern Africa.

This team currently consists of PJ Smyth, Steve van Rhyn, and Rigby Wallace. We are also developing Hub Teams (HT’s) to represent the ALT in various regions to better help take the mission forward and care for the churches. People are invited onto the ALT by PJ and the current ALT, and onto Hub Teams by the ALT.
Partner churches would particularly look to the ALT and HT’s for prophetic and strategic inspiration, for assistance in elder ordinations, crisis, transition, major sin in leadership, and when there isn’t yet an eldership team in place.

Beyond these teams, all manner of shapes and sizes of team will emerge based on gift recognition, fruitfulness, and relationship. For example, we have a team that oversees our ACPC programme, and another task-team working on peri-urban contextualisation, and so on. Teams will be fluid, not static, depending on the needs of the hour.

The Advance leadership ethos is about partnering, not promotion; serving, not being served; and giving, not taking. Leadership and leadership teams serve the mission and not the other way around. Leaders emerge as their character, gifting, and capacity for “chemistry” is revealed. Partnering churches are encouraged to build relationships with more than one member of the ALT, as well as other leadership gifts within Advance.

If you visiting for the first time please take a read...

I Think Bono (U2) said it best, ‘I still haven’t found what i’m looking for’. Jesus said it first though, to a lady at a watering point. She was on husband number five and already onto prospective husband number six.

Jesus challenged her to believe in Him, promising her that should she believe in Him, she would never need another husband again. She would find satisfaction and what she was looking for, in Him.

You and I live mostly as a true reflection of U2’s song; searching everywhere for something, someone that will give us a sense of worth, significance. Looking for someone or something to comfort us. In need of someone or something that will give us what we need: money, status, positions...

While we identify with the search and need for these things, we choose to take Jesus at His words. What a claim? “Come to me and you will never be thirsty again!” Or in our language, “come to me and you will find what you are looking for.”

We believe that ultimate satisfaction and life comes in us believing and living in a restored relationship with Jesus. Sin, our pursuing of other things for our joy and life, broke that relationship. Leaving us dry and ever-searching, but never satisfied, only disappointed...

If you can relate and would like to look deeper, we welcome and are open to connecting with you. We would love to meet you and share what we've discovered in our search... please contact us..