Editor’s Note: This GWF2019 Advance Paper was written by the Catalysts for the Ministry Collaboration Issue Network as an overview of the topic to be discussed at the related session at the Global Workplace Forum 2019 held in Manila, Philippines.
As a global network of networks, the Lausanne Movement plays a vital role to catalyze collaboration in the Body of Christ by connecting influencers and ideas for global mission. With the growing momentum of the Faith and Work movement in recent years, the Global Workplace Forum provides a strategic opportunity, not only to share ideas, but to identify critical areas for collaboration that could strengthen the movement for Kingdom impact in every sphere of society.
An intentional commitment to Kingdom collaboration is critical for the Faith and Work movement to gain momentum and have widespread impact across the Body of Christ worldwide. This paper explains the importance of collaboration by providing a brief theology of partnership and the impact and benefits of collaboration within the world Christian movement. Then, we highlight the growth and diversity of the Faith and Work movement and provide hopeful examples of emerging partnerships and identify potential areas for increased collaboration. We conclude with practical next steps and resources.
The importance of collaboration
Collaboration between members in the Body of Christ is vitally important because it reflects the very nature of the triune God and how he designed his Body to function. Whether it is a bilateral partnership of organizations, a multi-church network, or an informal alliance among like-minded ministries, Christian unity is demonstrated through practical partnering.
The foundational theology of partnership in Christian mission rests on two important themes: unity and diversity. The theme of unity is obviously prevalent in the Scriptures—from the oneness of the Trinity, to the fellowship of Christians, to the constant appeals for Christians to ‘love one another’ and to be ‘of one mind and spirit.’ Jesus himself prayed that his followers would ‘be one’ as he and the Father are one, ‘so that the world may believe’ (John 17:20-23). And he said to his followers, ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ (John 13:35).
But the theme of diversity is equally present in the Scriptures through many descriptions of the varying roles, gifts, and functions in ministry (Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, Hebrews 2:4, John 4:35-38, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, and Hebrews 11:39-40). The Scriptures say that one plants while another waters and one sows while another reaps, ‘so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together’ (John 4:35-38).
It is clear from the Scriptures that God desires both relational unity and functional diversity in the global church. God values unity but not uniformity. God values diversity but not division. True partnership is not simply a matter of equality. It is a matter of synergy. The Holy Spirit distributes differing gifts ‘according to his will’ (Hebrews 2:4), and it is through this functional diversity in the context of relational unity that God intends to accomplish his purposes in the world, ‘so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 4:7-11).
Not only is collaboration important because it reflects God’s intended design for his Body, but also because collaboration has demonstrated increased Kingdom impact. Over the last 40 years, God has been uniting the global church as never before in history, resulting in the explosive growth of mission networks that are making gospel advance possible where the challenges are too big, the situations are too complex, and the resources required are too great for any single organization or strategy alone.
Today there are hundreds of networks rallying thousands of ministries together around shared goals in dozens of different mission fields—from people groups to geography-focused or issues specific, such as orality, Bible translation, and Business as Mission. To get an idea of the amazing range of operational mission networks, take a look at the web directory LinkingGlobalVoices.com managed by Eldon Porter (Consultant for Global Engagement with MissioNexus) which currently tracks more than 600 mission networks across the world in more than 90 different areas of ministry!
Recognizing the strategic role of networks, the Lausanne Movement is organized around 36 issue networks, each led by Lausanne catalysts and focused on a pressing missional opportunity or challenge which will be represented at the Global Workplace Forum.
These mission networks, in all their various forms—as partnerships, alliances, or coalitions, bring churches, ministries, mission agencies, field workers, tentmakers, business entrepreneurs, and funders together around common areas of interest to share information and resources, learn from each other, and collaborate in joint projects to accomplish together what none could do alone.
These kinds of collaborative efforts can accrue a wide range of substantial benefits. Here is a selection of the kinds of benefits that partnering can realize, drawn from 20 years of experience developing partnerships around the world and in many different cultural contexts:
- Options increase. Potential for action expands. Working alone, no matter how sophisticated or substantial one’s resources, limits what one person or ministry can accomplish. Working with others who complement existing strengths expands potential and the horizons of ministry and impact.
- Achievement of goals accelerates, costs decrease, and redundancy is eliminated. An effective partnership produces efficiency and reduces the gaps and overlap that result when we all do our own thing. Return on Kingdom investment increases.
- Individuals and ministries are able to capitalize on their strengths. Effective partnerships allow people or organizations to do what they do best, to maximize their contribution rather than spreading themselves too thinly by doing many different things—often poorly. When we join hands with others, we discover different, often complementary, strengths.
- The bigger picture comes into focus. Effective partnerships let us see what is needed to accomplish the bigger vision, identify the missing pieces, and connect with resources to accomplish the vision. Getting all the pieces together, focused on a common objective, is a sure recipe for better outcomes.
- Flexibility increases. Partnerships encourage individuals or ministries to play their unique roles. When they don’t have to do everything, they can concentrate on what they do best.
- Risks diminish. The larger or more complex the vision or project, naturally, the greater the resources needed. Working in effective partnerships, we can share the load and reduce risk while increasing the speed of progress or the quality of the outcomes.
- God’s power is released in a special way. Working alone on challenging projects, particularly in our own strength without God’s presence and power, can be scary! God promised that his power will be present and released in a special way when we join with his people in partnership (cf. Psalm 133).
- We receive refreshment and new hope. In challenging circumstances, hope keeps us alive. Whatever our vision, in our community or elsewhere in the world, the knowledge that others share our vision refreshes our spirits and sustains our hope (cf. Matthew 5:9; Psalm 133).
- And perhaps most importantly: Our work gains significant credibility. God’s people working together demonstrates the core Scriptural truth: the work of Jesus restores relationships, both with God and with each other. Working in collaborative partnership infuses ministry with authenticity—both in word and in deed—and moves us closer to the fulfillment of the Great Command (Matt 22:36), the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20), and the great, unfulfilled prayer of Jesus in John 17 (John 17:20-23).
As our world is becoming increasingly complex, many challenges will require a collaborative effort for there to be innovative solutions and real, lasting transformation. The Stanford Institute of Social Innovation makes this pressing point: ‘There is no other way society will achieve large-scale progress against urgent and complex problems, unless a collective impact approach becomes the accepted way of doing business.’
Collaboration in the faith and work movement
There is no place in greater need of increased collaboration than in the Faith and Work movement which is rapidly growing and has enormous potential to mobilize the 99 percent of Christians in the workplace to live as vibrant witnesses for Christ in every sphere of society.
In recent years, God’s Spirit has been shining his light on the workplace, raising awareness of Christians worldwide about issues of Faith and Work:
- Marketplace leaders are grappling with how to integrate their faith with their professions.
- Bi-vocational workers are seeking how to best do work and ministry together.
- Pastors are recognizing the imperative of equipping every person in their churches to be intentional disciples of Christ, whatever their job.
- Seminaries are challenging students to develop a theology of work.
- The mission movement has expanded to include professionals using their skills as ‘tentmakers’ and has given birth to Business as Mission, raising up hundreds of entrepreneurs to have legitimate work platforms in restricted access countries.
In every corner of the world Christian movement, people are waking up to the fact that there is no need for a secular-sacred divide. God created us for work, and whether we are plumbers, lawyers, domestic workers, or film-makers, all of us are called to live as disciples of Christ on mission wherever he has placed us, not only those in paid, full-time vocational ministry.
As God’s Spirit has been speaking, his people have been listening and taking action. Across the globe, initiatives, ministries, institutes, and organizations are springing up to provide resources, teaching, training, and discipling on matters of Faith and Work, theology of work, marketplace ministry, Business as Mission, and much more. Like any movement gaining momentum, there is lack of awareness about who is doing what, duplication of effort, and a scarcity of resources. But there are also many promising signs that collaboration are growing and more people are realizing the need to connect with others of like-mind to share information, learn from one another, and explore potential partnering opportunities.
These are a few examples of collaborative efforts demonstrating what is possible when people look beyond their own survival or success, to what could be accomplished with others:
- BAM Global and B4T Network share some of the best practices of Business as Mission. These two networks have produced many gatherings, working group reports, case studies, and best practices which are shaping the Business as Mission (BAM) movement.
- ScatterGlobal is an innovative approach to sending marketplace workers cross-culturally using their profession while making disciples. This collaborative effort of more than 7 mission organizations is committed to mobilizing and resourcing the 99 percent of Christians, those who are not pastors or missionaries.
- Three Faith at Work Summits have been organized in the US in recent years to encourage and challenge the Faith and Work movement with discussions of critical topics.
- A variety of networks have formed to bring distinct groups of leaders together around specific Faith and Work-related initiatives.
- Made to Flourish is a network of pastors and their churches committed to faith, work, and economic wisdom for the flourishing of their communities.
- City Gate was formed to create relational and strategic space to start and grow institutions focused on the integration of faith, work, and life.
- Oikonomia Network is a learning community of theological educators and evangelical seminaries helping pastors equip people for whole-life discipleship, fruitful work, and economic wisdom.
- The Lausanne Movement includes three networks operating in the Faith and Work space: Business as Mission, Workplace Ministry, and Tentmaking.
These examples of collaboration in the Faith and Work movement are cause for celebration. Yet, as the movement grows there is an increased need to explore ways for greater efficiencies and effectiveness by working together. Many groups have similar objectives and could greatly benefit from sharing resources and learning from one another. As complexity rises with more people joining the Faith and Work movement, there is so much to gain if leaders are willing to ask, ‘What are others doing, and how could we potentially work together?’
Potential areas for collaboration
Taking the time and effort to partner with others to share information, resources, and best practices will fuel the Faith and Work movement to be even more fruitful in God’s Kingdom.
During and after the Global Workplace Forum one of the best actions you can take is to identify specific situations where collaboration could solve problems or expand opportunities. Leaders across the Faith and Work movement recently raised these examples of ‘pain points’ where increased collaboration could result in significant growth and impact.
- Survey Faith and Work initiatives to raise awareness of who is doing what.
- Establish communication and build trust between the leaders within and between different sectors such as B4T/BAM, city initiatives, networks, churches, and theological institutions.
- Collaborate on content development and distribution so media, articles, and courses can be widely available to build capacity and reduce duplication of effort.
- Together, identify gaps in the Faith and Work Movement and develop collaborative solutions that will benefit a diversity of groups.
- Collaboratively organize training events to resource the growing number of people wanting to launch Faith and Work initiatives in their cities and around the world.
- Develop a cadre of experienced marketplace leaders available to serve as speakers and mentors for Faith and Work conferences, training events, and mentoring initiatives.
No doubt the potential of partnering is great yet the capacity of leaders is limited. Imagine what breakthroughs might be achieved for God’s Kingdom if you took the simple step in the next year to explore the potential of collaboration.
Practical next steps
After decades of developing mission networks, we have discovered that while cultures and circumstances may be different, the foundational principles and process of partnering remain the same as they move through the three stages of partnership development: exploration, formation, and operation. It all begins with the first step: engaging in an exploration process to discover who else shares a like-minded vision, and then gathering those people to ask, ‘What might we do together that we cannot accomplish if we continue to work separately?’
With tremendous diversity within the Faith and Work arena, many leaders know very little about each other or what they are learning about marketplace ministry. This is fertile ground for discovery and connection building.
Collaboration is not simple, nor is it self-evident. Intentional learning about effective ways to engage in collaboration can significantly improve the results of your partnering efforts.
The following resources are available to assist those wanting to grow their understanding of collaboration:
- Attend the workshop on collaboration that will be offered at the Global Workplace Forum. Details on this workshop will be listed in the preparation information.
- The Synergy Commons, curated by visionSynergy, is an online learning community with over 1,100 Christian network leaders, along with free resource articles, webinars, and self-paced courses on collaboration. Join the Synergy Commons at https://synergycommons.net/join.
- Linking Global Voices is a directory of ministry and mission networks, listing over 600 networks. Use its Global Network Finder tool to search for networks by region, issue, people group, and more. See https://www.linkingglobalvoices.com.
- Download and review visionSynergy’s ‘Essential Guide to Effective Networks’, a brief overview of the stages of network development, the leadership roles involved, and step-by-step details on the exploration, formation, and operation of an effective network. Download at https://synr.gy/eg2en.
- Well Connected: Releasing Power, Restoring Hope Through Kingdom Partnerships. This definitive field handbook on collaboration, partnerships, and networks is available in 6 languages for free download: https://synr.gy/wellconnected.
- Lausanne has two co-catalysts for Ministry Collaboration who stand ready to assist you on collaboration questions. Get in touch with either Michael Kaspar ([email protected]) or Karin Butler Primuth ([email protected])
The Faith & Work Movement holds immense promise for the global church. An intentional commitment to Kingdom collaboration will make it possible for the movement to gain traction and have widespread impact. As the African Proverb says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ By learning more about effective collaboration practices, Christian leaders can become collaborative leaders, launching new partnering initiatives that have the reach, resources, and anointing of God’s spirit to advance his Kingdom in every sphere of society.
- Lausanne’s fourfold vision: The gospel for every person, an Evangelical church for every people, Christ-like leaders for every church, and Kingdom impact in every sphere of society. ↑
- Linking Global Voices: LGV ↑
- https://www.lausanne.org/all-issue-networks ↑
- Stanford Institute for Social Innovation, Spring Journal, 2012 ↑
- https://bamglobal.org/ ↑
- https://www.openusa.net/ ↑
- https://www.scatterglobal.com/ ↑
- https://www.madetoflourish.org/ ↑
- http://citygateconference.com/ ↑
- https://oikonomianetwork.org ↑
- https://www.lausanne.org/all-issue-networks ↑