This past week, he spoke to us at Cleveland's City Mission about a theology of collaboration. At his blog, Confessions of a Small-Church Pastor, Chuck gives this outline on collaboration:
1. Self-limitation. You can call this giving up control, recognizing the equality of others, or partnering. Whatever you call it, the incarnation of Christ is the theological example, and Philippians 2:5-11 is the biblical basis. The point is that genuine collaboration does not occur if the parties are not perceived to be equal participants.
2. Values “otherness.” Pat Keifert’s excellent book, Welcoming The Stranger, points out that we must recognize the “otherness” of God in order to find intimacy with God. The same is true in our hospitality to others — we open ourselves to them and their differences, valuing “otherness” as part of the collaborative process.
3. Recognizes that which unites us. Doctrines divide the world Christian community. And, that’s the purpose of doctrine — to express the convictions that make Methodists different from Baptists, and Baptists different from Pentecostals. But, practices (feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for children) can unite us. We can collaborate on practices without sacrificing our doctrinal distinctives.
4. Commits to becoming companions on a journey. The word “fellowship” has its origins in the concept that those on board the same sailing ship were dependent upon each other for a safe and harmonious passage — they were “fellow-shippers” committed to making a journey together. Collaboration of specific projects or ministries calls us to “travel” together on a journey toward our mutual destination.
5. Re-unifies God’s creation. When we collaborate with others in a common cause — particularly if we partner with businesses, governments, civic groups, or other communities that are not thought of as faith communities — we are re-uniting the sacred/secular divide that emerged from the Enlightenment. We begin to see all good as God’s good, whether it credits faith in God or not. So, churches can work with businesses to establish a food pantry, or homeless shelter, or childcare center because these are practices that God encourages.
In the emerging church, we need to figure out ways to partner with other ministries and other institutions in our communities for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God. We need to learn how to leverage our strengths and do a better job of mission. The past century saw too much infighting and jockeying for position among Christian ministries and churches that should have been collaborating to reach their community with the good news of Jesus Christ.
technorati: emerging church; missional; missional community