127 Worldwide is committed to mutually-edifying relationships with local leaders. Much of recent international mission work has hinged on the West imparting wisdom, theology, and methods to the rest of the world. In other words, ministry gets reduced to “us” bettering “them” and adopting people as projects. We reject that model in theory, and in practice we’re trying, failing, and trying again to foster healthy cross-cultural relationships.
Our model for mutual-edification begins with recognizing all people as image-bearers. We believe that God created people endowed with dignity and uniquely gifted to contribute to human flourishing. We expect that everyone has something to give and something to gain, so we reject any tendency toward paternalism that would suggest the giver is superior to the receiver. While we see the need for change in vulnerable communities, we remember that change needs to happen in us as well.
Additionally, 127’s mutual-edification ethic is grounded in the knowledge that together we are the body of Christ. As we collaborate with Christians around the globe, we recognize ourselves as members of one body and celebrate that our gifts are different and complementary. Our ministry is one with local leaders and their communities as we join what God is already doing among them. We believe that raising up partners in the image of ourselves is a bar set far too low, and instead, we’re aiming for shared transformation into the image of Christ.
127 Worldwide’s partners have been serving the least of these long before we joined forces. Now we bring our best to the table in order to further their ministry efforts, and as they do the same, we’re all built up as equal laborers on the same team. We need them just as much as they need us. Our partnership operates best as a two-way street where all parties are sharpened, encouraged, and corrected by one another.
A history of colonialism still tethers ministries in many countries to western aid in unhealthy ways. Untangling generations of power imbalances woven into the fabric of societies is complicated. But we assume the burden of these challenges because we recognize that we’ve inherited a position of power. Now we have the opportunity to track a new course. While we acknowledge the baggage of the past, we strive for relationships that are founded on a heavenly kingdom and not an imperial one. Historically the message has been that the West has the resources and solutions, but we’re committed to proclaiming in word and action what has always been true– That we all sharpen one another as image-bearers and members of the body of Christ.
Relationships don’t become reciprocal just because you label them “mutually-edifying,” so our target on the wall is to foster a healthier culture in which influence flows both directions. We’re all works in progress, and together we’re learning what cooperation within the body of Christ looks like. 127 is committed to critical evaluation of our involvement so that, in spite of these challenges, we cultivate transparency, humility, and collaboration across continents.
Together we are the global church, spurring one another on in good works and trusting that we all look more like Christ as a result of mutual respect and investment. Diversity presents unique challenges and requires compromise, but it also opens avenues for reciprocal growth and change. The process of being mutually-edified across geographic, linguistic, and cultural divides is a tall order, but we firmly believe it’s worth every ounce of effort we can give to it.