How Does Collaboration Accelerate the Great Commission?

Adeoluwa Olanrewaju, Mike Adegbile & Mike Latsko 28 Feb 2024

It’s been said that the 20th century was the century for great organizations and that the 21st is the century for great movements and networks. In the complicated world of 20th century missions, great women, men, churches, and organizations, in the power of the Spirit, pushed back the darkness, pioneered new fields, made disciples, learned and shared best practices, and saw the glory of the Lord.

In the complex world of the 21st century, overlapped by globalization, urbanization, migration, technological growth, economic and governmental turmoil, climate disruption, and the dizzying speed of change in these and most other domains, it is clear that unless we work together before the Lord, blending our glorious, messy heterogeneity, our outcomes will fall far short of our aspirations. 

Unless we work together before the Lord, blending our glorious, messy heterogeneity, our outcomes will fall far short of our aspirations.

Last month we reviewed the biblical basis of such mission collaboration. We saw that the triune God Himself functions in unity and diversity. The Trinity respects the distinct nature and specific initiatives of each person and functions collaboratively as one. In the Old Testament, Moses had his Aaron, Saul his Samuel, David his Samuel and Nathan, and the kings their multitude of prophets. In the New Testament, individuals have varieties of gifts and require interconnection for the fullness of God’s character to be seen, churches have a five-fold leadership structure (Eph 4:11) and multiple elders. The Bible itself is a collaborative expression of God and man, and so is the Lord Jesus. Mission collaboration is rooted in these teachings and examples of Scripture.

As we ramp up to the Fourth Lausanne Congress in September, we’ll be exploring several examples of collaborative work accelerating gospel advance. Consider here the story of the Nigeria Evangelical Missions Association (NEMA). Through initiatives such as The Searchlight Project, which focused on people group research, and a growing awareness of the need of the 10/40 window, a network-wide vision was birthed to ask the Lord for 50,000 Great Commissioners who would mobilize 15,000 cross-cultural workers to 34 countries in the 15 years between 2005 and 2020.

Vision 5015 outcomes were glorious! Churches were mobilized, workers were sent, disciples were made, and churches were born. None of these would have been imaginable apart from a growing partnership and trust between participants. In the four years since the conclusion of that vision cycle, additional workers have been sent to unengaged and unreached peoples, research has further clarified the task remaining, and the need for Bible translation and Scripture engagement has been highlighted.

NEMA leaders wish to underscore for Lausanne participants these lessons learned from the Vision 5015 journey.

Collaboration Can Happen

It is not mere wishful thinking or day-dreaming, and a failure to collaborate will make the task twice as hard to accomplish.

Collaboration Is Purposeful

The goal must be compelling and tangible. In NEMA’s case, it was the engagement of every people group in their country ensuring that no people, place, or language was overlooked.

Collaboration Is Sincere

It’s not a ploy to get the job done. It’s not a subtle attempt to use people or organizations to achieve personal goals or pursuits. Heroes are not required but humble servants are.

Collaboration Requires Information and Resource Sharing

Hoard your data and resources? Forget your partnership. If the heart is there, security and transparency are not mutually exclusive.

Collaboration Honors Each Contribution

Each person, church and organization has something to add, and no one’s gift is second-class.

Collaboration Is To the Glory of God

‘Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory’ (Ps 115:1).

Our very determination to collaborate reflects the nature of our triune God and honors His desire that we who are many function as one.

NEMA’s example and what we all have experienced over time is that collaboration expands our biblical awareness, deepens our cultural sensitivity, clarifies our understanding of team, challenges our presuppositions about church, and mediates the inevitable conflicts which come when pursuing something great with others. Were it not for our commitment to hear from one another, consider how our understanding of Scripture would be weakened! Our appreciation of culture, our cherishing of people different from ourselves and even our views of what Jesus communities look like will be enhanced by insights from others, and almost any important issue will be better understood when informed by reasonable people sharing multiple perspectives.

For a global network passionate to see the gospel for every person, disciple-making churches for every people and place, Christian leaders for every church and sector, and kingdom impact for every sphere of society, collaboration is central. We’re well aware of the barriers, and we’ll be addressing some of them next month. But the benefits of deeper, richer fruit, and the strength which comes from partnership, overwhelm these as the sun does a lightbulb. 

Over all the practical benefits is the awareness that our very determination to collaborate reflects the nature of our triune God and honors His desire that we who are many function as one. May collaboration be done on earth as it is in heaven. May the beauty of his multifaceted nature be reflected in our own partnerships. ‘Who among the gods

is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?’ (Exod 15:11) How better to express his majesty, his breadth of diversity, his range of emotion, his heights of perfection, his depths of insight, than through his body of clay pots, wondrously held together by that which every joint and ligament supplies?