“we need to do a better job collaborating”
In November 2012, by a unique set of circumstances, I found myself sitting in a room with many of the nations top leaders of marketplace ministry organizations. Clearly, I had no business being there; thus, my prayer throughout the day was, “God, why do you have me here?” While not an audible voice, it seemed so clearly that he was answering my prayer with a couple things of which I’d like to touch on one today.
What I seemed to hear him say over and over again and has so impressed upon my spirit over the past 2 1/2 years is “we need to do a better job collaborating”. What initially I thought was directed at the 30 organizations within the room by the end of the day was clearly more direct at “the Church”. Please notice that I used the big “C” church to represent the entire body of believers of which the “local church”, “marketplace ministries” and other God honoring organizations are all apart.
Since hearing these words, I’ve been drawn to noticing division within the body. For that fact, I’ve even caught myself is some of these entangling discussions. While some of these discussions are healthy as they challenge what an organization’s ultimate “why” is and elevate the effectiveness of the organization in their God honoring mission, many of them are not healthy. Looking specifically at the “local church”, I’ve heard arguments as to the “right” church size, worship style, paid staff vs. voluntary, building structures, best preachers, best discipleship programs, and the list goes on. I anticipate you’ve also been caught up in many of the same types of discussions.
These arguments are not new. Today, I reflected on the following passage:
“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas ”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Corinthians 1:10-17 NIV)
Yes, it seems the church of Corith back in Paul’s time was having many of the same issues. In essence, they had forgotten who they were “following”. Rather than “my church is better than yours” arguments, Paul clearly refocuses the people of Corinth in the direction which we all should be focused which is “following Jesus”.
As one who promotes openness, candor, and transparency in relationships, I’m not trying to down play the importance of “healthy conflict” in relationships and “best practices” in effective ministry. What I am clearly attempting to articulate is the difference between “healthy” and “unhealthy” division in the church. When we cross the line of tearing others down for the benefit of raising up our particular church, organization, or agenda, we have serious issues. And, these are the observations, I’m referring which I’m becoming more and more sensitive toward.
Now, briefly, collaboration is much more than learning how to eliminate division within the church. Collaboration at its core means “work together”! Yes, it means to acknowledge our differences and find ways of working together in unity to Glorify Jesus. We must do away with “the spirit of competition” and be more intentionally focused on how our church or organization can better serve other churches and organizations. Did you hear that, “we must take our eyes off ourselves and focus them on serving others.” Now, doesn’t that sound like a biblical principle?
So, why don’t we? Well, many reasons, however, to capture the majority: pride, arrogance, and fear. As much as we stand in the pulpit preaching it, at our “fleshly core”, we still want ours to be the best and fear what might happen if it’s not. Yes, things like financial sustainability are real in ministry and many fear at the core that if they don’t maintain their competitive edge, they will find themselves without a ministry. Guess what, this might be true; however, did you ever think that God might want you to give up your ministry in order to go join one which He’s calling you toward for greater purposes? Oh…ouch, that hurts a bit! Rather than God calling me to be “his man”, he might be asking me to give up this dream and go serve someone else in a less “glamorous” role. Not to go on too much of a tangent, but to ask it another way, “would you really be this passionate about serving Jesus if he asked you to go stuff envelops for the rest of your life”?
Yes, “we need to do a better job collaborating”! Within our own churches and organization to start, and then, among other churches and organizations. Division in the church and “the spirit of competition” are real. Don’t allow them to pull you and your organization’s eyes of what’s most important which is “following Jesus” which also entails “serving others”. Find ways of new collaboration today!