Understanding God’s Heart for Collaboration

Daniel Dow 26 Jan 2024

Editor's Note

This article is the first in a series that will be looking at collaboration and what it takes to collaborate effectively. Before we dig into the practical aspects of collaboration, let’s take a few moments to understand collaboration from God’s perspective in scripture.

God’s Collaborative Nature

The root meaning of the word collaboration is to ‘co-labor’. In I Corinthians 3:9, the term for co-labor is synergoi, from which we get the modern word ‘synergy’. In short, collaboration means to coordinate, organize, and co-labor in such a way that the sum of our combined efforts produces more than our individual contributions. 

Throughout scripture we see God as a triune Father, Son, and Spirit in loving relationship with each other. We see them united in purpose, working together in total, loving cooperation, yet each with diverse and unique responsibilities, roles, and names.

  • John 5:19–Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.’
  • John 14:26–But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:14–May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Witnessing loving unity causes the world to believe in God because working together in loving unity and diversity reflects, and is an expression of, God’s character.

Together, they created the world and mankind. And, when mankind disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, they co-labored to reunite and restore mankind’s relationship, first through Israel, and then through Jesus Christ and His church.

In John 17:20-23, Jesus describes his relationship with the Father as ‘we are one’ and prays that this same oneness, love, and unity would be available to those believers yet to come so that the world may believe in him. Witnessing loving unity causes the world to believe in God because working together in loving unity and diversity reflects, and is an expression of, God’s character.

God at Work

How God works is an expression of who he is. In Genesis 1 and John 1, we catch a glimpse of a collaborative and creative God at work. We see the Spirit of God, who was with God, moving on the waters and God’s creations filling the earth. Later in the creation story, we see God creating Adam and Eve in his image. He didn’t just create another more intelligent species of animal. He created physical beings able to co-labor with God and each other. We see Adam invited by God to name the animals and care for his creation. He becomes God’s partner in caring for and naming God’s creation. 

This desire to collaborate with his people is seen in story after story as God interacts with Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, the prophets, and eventually, his beloved son Jesus Christ. It is also reflected in the Great Commission passages of Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 2 where God calls all of his people to join him in reconciling and restoring a broken world. Too big to do alone, it is a purpose that can only be accomplished by working together in loving partnership with each other and God the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Unity, Diversity and Love

God’s collaborative nature expresses itself throughout scripture through three central themes: Love, Unity, and Diversity. 

I John 4:8 states, ‘God is love’. Matthew 22:37-39 records Jesus saying that, ‘Love for God and loving others as yourself are the two greatest commandments.’ Love is the source of God’s enduring desire to see all people restored to himself. His overwhelming love for us is the motivation and the source of our ability to love and work with others. It is the fuel that drives our relationships and work with God, his church, and each other, for ‘if we do not have love, we gain nothing’ (I Cor 13:1-3).

From Jesus’ prayer for oneness to the Apostles’ many calls for relational unity in the church, unity is paramount to God. In Psalms 133, we read ‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!’ In Ephesians and Romans, the Apostle Paul describes the Body of Christ as ‘one body with many parts’ (1 Cor 12:12-31;Rom 12:4-8). Our ministry callings and gifts are uniquely given to each of us, but always so that we may effectively function as part of the body of Christ. Unity is what connects us, strengthens us, and unites us in collective action for God’s purposes.

God desires unity in diversity, not the unity of sameness.

We also see God’s passion for diversity in scripture. From the beauty of creation to the functional gifts and roles that God gives his people, diversity is an essential aspect of God’s character. As unique parts of the body of Christ, each part serves a vital function, and together can accomplish more than any one part alone. We see from this that God desires unity in diversity, not the unity of sameness. Each part is honored and esteemed, yet designed to work together with greater capacity. Functional diversity is how God gives us–his body–the creative capacity to adapt, coordinate, and innovate. It is how God releases the resources to overcome challenges and advance the gospel.

But sadly, instead of working together, we often let sin and Satan divide us and discredit our group witness through anxiety, competition, mistrust, and a fear of scarcity. In our passionate focus on our own calling and ministry, we can forget that we are also called to be a part of something bigger than our individual calling; that it is in working together with each other that the world witnesses the power and presence of God (John 17:18-21).

Collaboration built on love, unity, and diversity, is so much more than a strategy for ministry success. It is the expression of God’s heart and nature. They were hallmarks of a growing early church. Co-laboring in loving diversity, unity with God and each other is how we rise to the scale of the challenges that God has given us; it is how the world comes to recognize that a loving God, powerful enough to change people’s hearts and minds, is seeking them.

As we begin 2024 and prepare for the upcoming Lausanne Gathering, we invite you to join us in praying for a renewed spirit of collaboration in the body of Christ. We also invite you to begin making ministry collaboration more than just a good idea by asking, ‘What might be possible if we worked together?’