Let’s assume that we are in agreement that collaboration is good, and of some benefit to us. We launch from that starting place and encounter our first obstacle. What if nobody wants to collaborate with us? We feel that in the melee of the multitudes of ministries, our voice goes unnoticed and unheard. In my early years of ministry, I honestly felt like a product in a glutted market, and no one was buying.
What I needed was favor and influence. But what was it exactly and how on earth was I going to get it?
We will get to a definition of favor, but let’s begin with a description rather than prescription.
I remember my first coffee meeting with Tim. He had questions about prayer written on a crumpled up piece of paper that he retrieved from his pocket and smoothed onto the coffee shop table. He had enthusiasm, an obvious devotion to the Lord, a questing heart and an inquisitive mind. At the time, he was working for a window cleaning company, but a few minutes of conversation with him revealed that God was powerfully at work in his life and that Tim was fully submitted to that process. I could “sense” the favor of the Lord on him, and that inclined my heart to extend favor as well. It wasn’t long before I invited Tim to join our staff at the House of Prayer. Despite the fact that he had a young family to provide for, Tim took the leap of faith and joined our band of merry “musician-aries”.
At work, he displayed uncommon commitment, a servant attitude, a meekness of heart and a teachable spirit, responding with grace to the Lord’s adjustments and correction and to mine as well. He was gracious and un-offendable, wise and loving in his dealings in house and out of house. During his time at the House of Prayer, specific vision for life and ministry began to come into focus in his heart. He is leaving us this summer to pursue that vision, and I am going ahead of him with the reach of my influence, to prepare the way, make ministry connections, and open doors for him in his new context. Tim found favor with God and with me, and I know that he will continue to find favor wherever he goes.
Tim changed us while he was with us. One of the analogies we use to describe the House of Prayer is the “people soup” . GOHOP takes on the flavor and characteristics of it’s participants, rather than requiring that they discard their distinctiveness to meld into the group dynamic. When new people come, GOHOP looks and tastes different – we are always changing and evolving, which is a very exciting process. Tim is an evangelist with a hunger to see signs and wonders and the demonstrations of the power of God. During his time with us, we were infected by that hunger and began to pursue healing through prayer and through further equipping. We, being the House of Prayer, changed Tim. Tim changed us. Wonderful new things birthed in our midst – collaboration.
Let me tell you another story. In the early years, in my zeal for the House of Prayer, I began to meet with local leaders in my city to share my vision. I remember having a coffee meeting with one pastor, where I chatted happily away about night and day prayer and the Harp and Bowl model of prayer and worship and how it would change everything. I handed her a 6 cassette series (yes, it was a looong time ago) about the Harp & Bowl model, sure that it would bless her socks off and revolutionize her spiritual life and her church. I didn’t ask her about her church or the dreams she was carrying in her heart because, after all, this was my opportunity to invite her to join me!
I didn’t hear back from her for years, and I couldn’t understand why. I now know that pastors have a built in “personal empire sniffer” and they can smell personal agendas, mixed motives and spiritual pride a mile away.
Fast forward eight years or so. That pastor is now the chairperson of our city Pastors and Leaders network, and I collaborate with her on the servant leadership team. Together we work with pastors in the city on citywide prayer and missional partnerships. We are close friends and have a deep love and commitment to one another and enjoy collaboration on a number of levels. How did I get here from where I was, enthusiastic but relatively unknown and marginalized?
I grew in favor with God and with man.
How do we grow in favor? With God and with man? Favor, in the Luke 2:52 passage I’m referring to, is the word “charis”, which seems to mean in this context “a beneficent disposition toward someone, favor, grace, gracious care/help, goodwill.” This word “charis” is also translated “grace” in other contexts. Implicit in this is that favor cannot be earned – it is a gift freely given – often a gift that we do not deserve. So we can grow in favor, we can position ourselves to receive it, we can, as one of my mentors says “put ourselves in the path of oncoming grace”.
We do this by doing what Tim did. Pursuing God for God’s sake, simply because He is worthy of pursuit. Submitting ourselves to Him. Being teachable and allowing Him to refine our character and purify our motives. Cultivating humility and refusing to be offended. Focusing on the relationships first and tasks second. Bringing our unique contribution to serve the vision of the larger community (or ministry). Taking our vision and stewardship, laying it down, for the sake of serving the bigger Vision. This may on the front end seem counter-intuitive, but remember we are working with the God who tells us to lay down our lives in order to gain them, and to be the servant of all.