The early church: on becoming a collaborative community (part 3)

In Acts 1, Jesus told 125 followers that they were to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem, and, starting there, spread his message to the ends of the earth. And by the end of Acts 3, thousands in Jerusalem had come to faith. The church Jesus came to establish was gathering momentum.

How did it happen so quickly and so powerfully?

With the help of the Holy Spirit, and through collaboration.

These witnesses sold things and gave things, working together to meet the needs that they saw around them in their community. That is kingdom Collaboration, and it’s a model we can follow.

People ate together, learned together, earned each other’s trust, and then applied the unique gifts God gave them towards the fulfillment of a common vision. Through this, the connecting of their resources and talents with their neighbors, they affected the community around them. Talents and money became part of something greater than their own individual giving. This local giving effort brought transformation of their lives and their community in record time. And it can do the same today.

Seven reasons to give through national collaborations:

  1. God has given the same vision to ministry leaders:
    As this vision is stirred in givers, God also stirs the hearts of ministry leaders who traditionally depended on outside charity. God moves in both the supply and demand sides of kingdom investing. And through this movement, he not only helps givers “build the wall in front of their own house,” but also gives a vision for national sustainability to ministries.

    Here are some examples of this:

    •  Asian Theological Seminary in Manila is now 90 percent funded by Filipinos.

    •  A Bible translation organization in Indonesia won’t undertake a new translation unless 50 percent of it is funded by Indonesians.

    •  Romanian and Polish chapters of Every Generation Ministries have stopped receiving money from American donors so they can fund their own work.

    •  Ministries like Operation Mobilization and TransWorld Radio are now training leaders in every nation in which they work how to be sustained from within their own countries.

    As always, God was way in front of us. He was preparing the soil, and working in both the giving and receiving ends of kingdom growth.

  2. We are designed to work out our faith in community: Just about every discipline in Scripture is better together. People are designed to worship together, pray together, serve each other, confess to each other, bear each other’s burdens – we need fellowship. God’s vision is always for us to come together. Before all of the collaboration and community among Jesus’ followers in Acts 2, we hear Jesus’ prayer. Before his death, burial, resurrection and ascencion to the Father, he asked that God would bring unity among all believers:

    I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

    – John 17:20-23

    Notice that first line. He’s not only praying for his disciples. He’s praying for us too, for everyone who will ever believe in him, that they will be one! Surely, this unity and fellowship also applies to our generosity.

  3. Kingdom growth always begins locally: The church is always growing in some specific place. And who knows what is best needed for local kingdom growth? The local people!

    The Maclellan Foundation does not know what is best for China. America does not know what is best for China. Chinese believers know what is best for China. The growth of the church in China requires a bunch of Chinese strategists funding a bunch of Chinese ideas. Because they are the local people, they understand their own situations.

  4. Wealth can isolate. Giving collaboratively unites: Wealth isolates. This is simply a fact. People get busy. It takes a lot of energy and time to maintain our momentum and our possessions. It is clear that the more wealth one has, the greater the temptation to trust people less, and then the more isolated we can become.

    But in collaborative giving our wealth can attract us to each other, rather than isolate us. It is the catalyst that actually unites us in fellowship. We can connect with believers who hold the same worldview we do and are interested in the same things. They don’t rely on our money; they only need a place to share their stories and their vision. Real fellowship can happen, and even flourish, in this kind of community like it did in Acts 2.

  5. Collaboration protects us from “black hole” projects: We learned a long time ago at the Maclellan Foundation that we want to be investors in projects, not owners of projects. If I am part of a collaborative group, and I’m the only one who thinks a particular project is a good one, then I have an opportunity to re-think my investment. If I am giving all alone, I may be tempted to continue to pour money into a bad idea. In collaborative giving, we can rely on peers for honest feedback, to point out where we may have blind spots, and help keep us from falling into a “black hole” with our giving.

  6. Collaboration pools intelligence and resources: In collaborative groups, we can pool resources for finding, evaluating, and reporting on projects, as well as having the ability to conduct research for making data-driven decisions. A group can bring in experts and speakers to teach, and from each other, learn to give.

    It’s important to note that “giving together” doesn’t mean “giving someone else authority over your giving.” Collaborative giving doesn’t mean you need to have a “common purse.” Collaborative giving means, simply, that you gather with other Christians who love your country and love the Great Commission, to help guide each other in your giving.

    Together, you share ideas for solutions to the Kingdom’s needs in your country. Together, you help each other give to the right causes that fight for the right solutions.

  7. We become a community with a cause: As wealthy Christians, we have common challenges like:

    • How to steward our wealth without ruining our children
    • How to manage our marriages when we have different views of giving
    • How to balance work and wealth and family
    • How to create a legacy without being held hostage by it

We have common enemies fighting against our faith and our families. This is why we must band together, why we must have fellowship. There is strength in numbers – especially in like-minded numbers. Taken together, these seven reasons should inspire towards giving, not only individually, but through fellowship as the kingdom of God.

Read part 1 in this series.

Read part 2 in this series.

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