Divine Synergy – the Art of Collaboration II ~ Growing in Favor with God and Man

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.

Divine Synergy ~ the Art of Collaboration (Part 1)

God never did anything alone.

As practitioner, not a theologian, unpacking the intricacies of Trinitarian fellowship and collaboration is beyond the reach of my little brain and the scope of this article.  Simply put, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were always up to something together.  “The Son can do nothing by himself” Jesus declared, “he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

I’m an entrepreneur.  I love to birth and build things.  Over the course of my career I have rarely worked in a position with a job description that I haven’t crafted for myself, on a vision that hasn’t been birthed in my heart.  My entrepreneurship can and has been a blessing to me and to the people around me, but I have learned over the years that a spirit of entrepreneurship needs to be married to a spirit of collaboration in order to bear the fruit that God desires.  Yes, God wants us to build.  But more importantly, He wants us to build together.

In the North American church and ministry context, we know how to build.  We receive vision and direction from the Lord – are given a ministry or idea to steward and develop.  In our desire to guard and protect the stewardship He has entrusted to us, we hold it close to our heart like a football quarterback on a surprise run to the end zone, protecting it and evading possible opponents.  Those who come in our path are categorized as possible tools to strengthen that which we are building, or possible threats to the vision.  And all of this feels very responsible and holy to us because we are, after all, trying to do only what we see the Father doing.  Collaboration, in our eyes, means gathering enough people around us as we build, placing each one as a brick in the edifice we are constructing.

These mindsets and methodologies would likely have Jesus shaking his head in perplexity.  He was raised in a tribal, community based culture, far removed from the raging individualism of our North American experience.

So how do we move towards what I believe to be a more Biblical, and what I know to be a way more enjoyable and exciting way of partnering with God and one another?

Let’s start with vision.  Ministry often begins in a moment of inspiration – an epiphany where our eyes are opened in some way to where God is at work around us.  Here is where the problems can begin, unless we are aware that we don’t see the whole picture.  At best, we are like someone standing in the middle of a room, trying to verbally describe what is in our line of sight.  We can see the room – well, some of it.  But even if we had highly developed peripheral vision, we would be unable to describe every view and vantage point of our surroundings.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:9, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part,”.  Receiving vision and direction from the Lord is one thing.  Contextualizing what we receive in light of the larger community and the bigger picture is a secondary and I believe critical step that many of us miss.

Here is a fictitious example.  George, in his morning quiet time, reads Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Somehow it is highlighted to his heart and he begins to receive a flow of inspiration and ideas about ministering to the homeless in his community.  He goes to his pastor, asks if the church can begin a ministry to the homeless.  He begins to recruit people to his vision and wrestle in committee meetings for a slice of the church home missions budget.  When other new ministries birth at the church, George feels protective and vaguely resentful that the church resources are being spread so thin, especially when he can’t get enough volunteers as it is.  And he can’t understand why the church down the street won’t let him share from their pulpit about his ministry.

Sound familiar?  It does to me.  I see it all the time.  Has George heard from the Lord?  Likely.  Is he responsibly developing and stewarding that which he has been entrusted with?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

How do we move away from individualistic mindsets and methodologies and move towards community and collaboration?  In subsequent sections, I will share my thoughts, based on my experience (mostly my mistakes) over the last ten years of serving and building collaboration in the prayer movement.