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What Does Spiritual Partnership Look Like?

quest-7-2As a young man I was hired by a Christian group to evangelize the villages along the Oregon coast. I had renovated a 1958 VW van into a camper that served as my mobile office and home. The prospect of serving God in this pioneer way was appealing and adventurous to me. That is until I actually began doing it! What I quickly discovered was that doing ministry solo is unnatural and very, very lonely. Jesus sent his disciples out two-by-two. And as far as I can determine, the apostle Paul always had co-workers.

I mentioned in The Quest that I had recognized my need for spiritual partnership long before I knew what it meant to partner spiritually with someone. Like most of us, I had enjoyed friendships with other followers of Christ. In some of those relationships we even enjoyed a high level of transparency and vulnerability. But spiritual partners take that one step further.

You see, being vulnerable with someone does not necessarily prompt life change. We may even commiserate with each other that we have the same sinful habit, but don’t do anything about it. A true spiritual partner will challenge us to change. As spiritual partners we don’t allow each other to get away with sin, but we challenge each other to flee from it and trust Christ to transform us. We walk through the hard stuff of life together and celebrate each other’s victories.

When looking for a spiritual partner, ask God to lead you to someone who will propel you into deeper relationship with him. Proverbs 22:24 warns us, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered.” Instead, pursue the kind of relationship revealed in Proverbs 27:17 NLT, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”

Another key element of spiritual partnership is that it is gender-specific. Men need to meet with men and women with women. This is true both for the sake of decency and because of the way we’re wired. Over the years both men and women have told me they think it’s easier for the other gender to partner spiritually. From their input I’ve concluded that spiritual partnership is challenging whether we are male or female and requires the investment of time and hard work.

Generally I’d recommend that you meet with your spiritual partner weekly. Find a time that mutually suits both of you and meet regularly. I’ve met with a spiritual partner in my or his office, hiking, walking the neighborhood, at a coffee shop, or at each other’s homes. Some of my most meaningful times with a spiritual partner have I’ve experienced on a hike. Do what works best for you.

It’s also important to spend time together in real or everyday life. Let your spiritual partner observe you in a variety of circumstances. Life change should be an outcome of your relationship, but it’s not the goal. Resist the temptation to see him/her as a project for you to work on or a tool to deal with your issues. Your relationship with your spiritual partner is reason enough to meet.

©2009 Rob Fischer

2 comments

1 Ray Edwards { 08.26.09 at 3:34 pm }

Rob, do you have specific suggestions about how to BE a good spiritual partner? How do we prevent our meetings from becoming mere “chat sessions”?

2 Rob { 08.27.09 at 3:37 am }

Ray, a great question! And like anyone else I’ve struggled with that tendency too. I’ve found two very simple disciplines that have helped me in my spiritual partnerships. First, always ask each other meaningful life questions and listen attentively to each other’s responses. Be real and transparent. These could be questions that arise from small talk or as follow up questions to something your spiritual partner says. If a question seems awkward, just say so: “This is awkward for me to ask but…”

Ask questions like, “What is God doing in your life right now?” “What is God showing you from his Word?” “Tell me about your walk with God.” “How are you integrating your relationship with Christ with your job, or marriage, or other relationships?” “If there’s one thing stealing your joy in Christ right now, what is it?” “How can I pray for you?”

The second discipline is to always pray for each other–together–out loud! Talk with God together conversationally and call upon his wisdom and power to lead and provide for each other. Pray in accord with the responses to the questions you asked each other. In prayer, celebrate what God is doing in each other’s lives.

I hope that helps!