Building the wall in front of your own house. On becoming a collaborative community (part 2)

When Cameron Doolittle was asked about collaboration with other givers, he thought immediately of David Denmark, executive director of the Maclellan Foundation, which has been investing in ministries and causes for decades.

In part one of their conversation, Denmark sought to first help people answer the question: Why do some of us even have wealth? Part two of that conversation is reflected in Cameron’s message here.

By Cameron Doolittle, Joygiving

David points out that we are to enjoy and honor God with the wealth he has given us. And one of the best ways to do this is to engage with others who have the same gift. The beauty of engaging with others when we give is that the collaboration itself builds community. You can see this kind of system in the book of Nehemiah, among the people who returned to the city Jerusalem. Here’s how he explains it.

Building in front of your own house

Christians who have been entrusted with wealth and resources have the ability to gather together in their own nations, to pray, fellowship, and strategize together to see the Lord’s kingdom expand throughout their countries.

This is not a new idea.

In 400 B.C., God gave Nehemiah a strategy to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem that had been destroyed when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to their holy city almost 200 years before.

The priests made repairs, each in front of his own house. – Nehemiah 3:28

The model Nehemiah implemented was simple, yet highly effective. It involved each family building the wall in front of their own home. This would keep them focused on what was right in front of them, and keep them from becoming overwhelmed by the complexity of the need of the entire community

But that was only half of the strategy.

Building the wall in front of their home was the start, but the overall task of repairing the city would not be completed until these individual sections of wall became part of something greater. They had to collaborate with those on their left, and on their right, which required them to build community as they each built their own portion of the wall. Genius!

According to Nehemiah’s plan, each family was uniquely called to a task. But that task connected each individual’s calling to the calling of others – in collaboration.

The Scottish economist Adam Smith is credited with coining the term “division of labor.” But you can see this in practice long before Adam Smith – in Nehemiah. Division of labor works like this: each individual is given a specific task that is different from others, but each task creates a reliance on others who are working toward completion of the same goal. This kind of collaboration produces community success. For the people of Jerusalem, it ended in victory, and an enormous celebration (Nehemiah 12).

Without everyone doing their part and relying on each other, no one would have had the means to achieve the grand goal of rebuilding the wall around an entire city. And we won’t accomplish our task either, if we don’t divide the work while still depending on each other.

Businesses know this. Companies require collaboration and division of labor for effectiveness and efficiency. Using Nehemiah’s plan as a formula, it looks like this:

  • Everyone is called to a unique task (as individuals or families). This creates reliance on one another, within a family and within a community (collaboration).
  • It ends with achieving a goal (victory).
  • It results in everyone becoming part of something greater than themselves (community).
  • And, in Nehemiah’s day, it produced national transformation in record time!

By starting with what was in front of their own houses, these families practiced kingdom collaboration, each fulfilling a unique task, and accomplishing a task many workers couldn’t have accomplished if the plan had been organized differently. Starting in front of their own houses, the people of the rebuilt Jerusalem restored their devastated kingdom by building a community.

So, how do you collaborate with other givers? The first trick is to start in front of your own house, do your part, and collaborate with your neighbors.

Read part 1 in this post.

Read part 3 in this post.

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