Have you ever asked yourself: What’s it going to take to reach your city? For every man, woman, and child to be given multiple opportunities to see, hear and respond to the good news of Jesus?
What’s it going to take?
Truth be told, God longs to fill the whole earth with his glory. He longs for every person he has created to know him personally and intimately. He’s the God who is patient, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance through faith. Every man. Every woman. Every child.
Regardless of where you live, whether in a rural environment or a bustling urban metropolis, the answer to the above mentioned question remains the same. What’s it going to take to reach every person? Certainly, it’s going to take more than you. And it’s going to take more than just your church. Let’s be honest. No singular church will ever be able to accomplish the mission of reaching their community this way.
Instead, if every man, woman, and child is to be given repeated opportunities to respond to the good news of Jesus, it’s going to take the collective efforts of every church and every Christ follower owning the lostness of your city and actively engaged in God’s redemptive mission. And doing so together, in partnership with one another.
What’s it going to take? It’s going to take kingdom collaboration.
So, what is kingdom collaboration? Why is it necessary? And what are its benefits?
Let’s talk about this.
According to authors Neil Powell and John James in their book, Together For the City, kingdom collaboration is what happens “when distinct parties work together to produce something they simply could not produce on their own.” Two things to note here. First, collaboration between two or more parties inevitably produces something that could not be done on one’s own. As stated above, no singular church has what it takes to see this kind of gospel saturation take place in a city. Even if you’re a large church with an ample supply of resources, to think that alone you can reach every man, woman, and child in your city is naivety at best. At worst, it’s called pride. And in case you forgot, God opposes the proud. However, he gives grace to the humble. When we choose to adopt a posture of humility, realizing that on our own we can’t reach everyone, we’re already well on our way to seeing this impossibility become reality through collaboration.
Speaking of humility, the second note is this: collaboration takes a certain posture of heart. If we’re going to collaborate well, we must do so around a shared vision. Collaboration is not about ensuring my or your church collects more churchgoers. It’s not about my or your church’s attendance growth or brand recognition but about embracing humility and generosity, surrendering our vision and priorities for God’s, and holding loosely our resources for the sake of gospel advance. It’s about intentionally breaking down the barriers of denominationalism and tribalism that would seek to divide us and meaningfully partnering together around the common goal of gospel saturation.
Collaboration is not about building my or your church or fiefdom. It’s about collectively working toward seeing the kingdom come in our city as in heaven and empowering everyone toward this end. If we’re truly going to see the impossible goal of every man, woman, and child positively respond to Jesus, then how we spend our time, use our resources, and even think about our own churches must change. Again, humility is key here. Sure, it’s costly. It’ll likely prove hard, challenging, and even messy at times. And it’ll definitely require sacrifice. But it’s worth it, for only together can we achieve what we can’t do on our own: gospel saturation.
So, what are the benefits of this kind of collaboration?
First, collaboration solves the growing resource deficit problem. In today’s post-
Christendom Canada, where church attendance is in rapid decline and more and more are opting out of faith altogether, a very real tension exists between the need for and finitude of resources for mission – be they people or finances. Many churches do not have the resources necessary to reach their neighbourhood or community, let alone the city. Yet, when multiple churches band together, choosing to share their resources toward a common purpose, the vision of reaching the city becomes attainable. Surely, collaboration is an antidote to the experience of finite and limited resources for mission.
Second, collaboration empowers everyone to play a role. Similar to the resource discussion above, many churches, though they may be resource-poor, are rich in vision and passion to reach every man, woman, and child with the gospel. In God’s economy, every part of the body is needed, and every part gets to play a role (1 Corinthians 12). And though different from one another, we each bring a unique and necessary contribution to the table (Ephesians 2:10). Collaboration not only grants every person and church an essential seat and voice at the table, but it strengthens and solidifies and makes more effective the very table around which we sit. Collaboration fosters a truly interdependent community where we each bring what we have to the party – and what no one else can bring. Further, collaboration also catalyzes the necessity of developing and deploying multiplying disciples empowered to live on mission where they live, work, learn, and play. A vision of gospel saturation demands our moving beyond the paid professional clergy as our limited workforce and toward empowering every believing man, woman, and child as priests and missionaries in God’s kingdom. Again, in God’s economy, everyone gets to play.
Third, kingdom collaboration produces a purity of the gospel as pride, personal ambition, and a competitive spirit are laid to rest. Collaboration requires every church, every church leader, and every follower of Jesus to give whatever it takes, asking nothing in return and claiming no glory for themselves, to see the kingdom come in its fullness in a given city. As noted above, kingdom collaboration requires and breeds greater humility. So too does it require and breed generosity, the giving of our resources and of ourselves not for personal notoriety or broadening tribal boundaries, but for holy Kingdom expansion. What’s not to love about this kind of Christocentric, Philippians 2 attitude of laying down one’s life so that many others can find theirs? Truly, this is the message of the gospel and one we get to live out personally and visibly when we commit to collaboration. While I said above that collaboration is an antidote to our finite and limited resources, it’s actually these very same tangible limitations that lead us to adopt a posture of humility and need for one another. Surely this attitude is the antidote to the division, pride, and disunity that keeps the church from greater effectiveness in our world.
A fourth benefit of collaboration is the positive net effect on other churches and local bodies. As more and more churches willingly “build bridges across denominational boundaries,” more and more churches will begin to ask, “What can we do to play our part?” Just as generosity and humility beget greater generosity and humility, a collaborative spirit will inspire a greater collaborative spirit. Remember, we’re stronger together than we are apart. This week I was reminded by a friend of these words from Deuteronomy 32:20: “One man will chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.” Just as two are better than one, three are better than two, and four better than three. When we live out this attitude through a commitment to collaborate, it becomes contagious, and others will want to opt in instead of out. And the more the merrier.
Finally, a kingdom-collaborative approach to mission inherently and subversively carries an important apologetic for outsiders and onlookers alike: The unity of the Church. In the words of Daniel Yang, Director of the Send Institute, “When you birth new churches for new generations that are city-positive and kingdom-minded, you’re not only constructing a new Protestant narrative in North America, but you’re also removing the power given to the old argument that says the Church isn’t unified.” As Lesslie Newbigin wrote: “The only hermeneutic of the gospel is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.” Surely, our activity as the Church is as powerful an apologetic as the gospel we preach. If we’re going to see every man, woman, and child reached with the gospel of Jesus, love and respect for one another as evidenced by laying aside our personal agendas and tribal affiliations for God’s grandiose vision of gospel saturation, is vital for success[SH5] . May every man, woman, and child know we are Jesus’ followers by our unity and love.
If you’re looking for a fantastic example of what could happen if a bunch of churches in your city decided to collaborate their resources, collective gifts, and people toward gospel saturation, I encourage you to check out this podcast with Jeff Vanderstelt and Jerry Gillis as they discuss collaborating together for Greater Buffalo, NY.
To learn more about the collaborative efforts taking place in Buffalo, NY, check out http://churchofwny.com/
If you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, here’s the Coles Notes version:
While Buffalo, NY, was once considered a “church graveyard,” the place where churches go to die, between 2009 and 2019, the Church in Buffalo experienced a 28% growth in attendance. In a day and age when the church in North America is consistently losing ground, how is this possible? One word: collaboration. The story of Buffalo is one of sixty pastors representing sixty churches across Greater Buffalo, partnering together around the common goal of gospel saturation. It’s a story of laying down pride and personal agenda and loyalties to church brand and boards and committing to do together what no singular church could do on their own. It’s a story of mutual love and submission to King Jesus and to one another resulting in incomparable fruit and incredible kingdom advancement. And it’s a story that is still being written today. This is the power of collaboration.
How will you lean into collaboration for the sake of gospel saturation in your city?
Take the next few minutes and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to the following questions:
Holy Spirit, will you show me something I do, intentionally or otherwise, that facilitates collaboration with others?
Holy Spirit, would you show me something I intentionally or unintentionally do or think that impedes collaboration. Repent and release.
Holy Spirit, what's one thing I can do this week to be more collaborative in my life and work?
 Neil Powell and John James, Together for the City: How Collaborative Church Planting Leads to Citywide Movements (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019), 154-155.  Powell and James, Together for the City, 57.  Powell and James, Together for the City, 35.  Powell and James, Together for the City, 31.  Powell and James, Together for the City, 19  Powell and James, Together for the City, 49.  Daniel Yang, “City-Level Kingdom Collaboration: A Long-Term Analysis,” Send Institute, June 26, 2020, https://www.sendinstitute.org/city-level-kingdom-collaboration-long-term-analysis/.  Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 227.