Consider the area where your church is located. The faithful, the unreached people groups, the brokenness, the flourishing…all of it. As you evaluate your geographic region – the area God has called your church to serve – what would it take to see the knowledge of the glory of the Lord fill your geography to achieve gospel saturation?
A lot more people and a lot more time, might be the first thing that comes to mind. And that is true. It’s going to take ALL of God’s people to accomplish the things he desires for his body. And while your first thought might be to look at your own church and congregation, what if you also considered churches down the street and around the corner; churches that love the Lord, but aren’t just like you.
Collaborating by Geography not just Philosophy
If you’re in a church network, collaboration isn’t an entirely foreign concept. Often other churches in your network aren’t down the road, but in other states or even on the other side of the country. Why is it easier to partner with a church hundreds of miles away than one in your neighborhood? Kingdom collaboration is easy when you’re in a room of people you agree with. It’s a totally different thing to look at the greater body of Christ with a responsibility to collaborate with other churches and other pastors who may not be part of your tribe. Churches that do things very different from the way you do things, but they love and preach Jesus – men, women, and children are coming to trust Jesus in their churches.
When You are in the Way of Collaboration
In Scripture, while God spoke to his people as a whole, he also spoke to specific geographies – many churches in the same place. Most of the epistles are addressed to certain regions rather than a specific church:
“To all those in Rome, who are loved by God and called to be saints.” – Romans 1:7
“For the church of God that is in Corinth.” – 1 Corinthians 1:2a
“To the churches of Galatia.” – Galatians 1:2b
“To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 1:1b
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus in Philippi.” – Philippians 1:1
If God wrote a letter to the Church in your geography, what would his desire be for them? Who would the letter be addressed to?
I would venture to guess that none of us are either ignorant or arrogant enough to say it would be our church, but some of us might be ignorant or arrogant enough to think it. Somewhere in our hearts, we believe when God looks at the place we are, we are the ones he’s most excited about. I also think many of us are trapped in the mindset that we’re doing it right and we are God’s gift to our geography.
This barrier prevents us from fulfilling God’s call on us to be unified in the body of Christ so he could be made known. Before we go further in considering collaborating with another church, ask God to uproot any arrogance or assumptions in your heart and replace them with a posture of humility and desire for oneness with his people.
A Biblical Foundation for Collaboration
In John 17, Jesus prays for himself, prays for his disciples that are with him, and then in verse 20, his attention goes down the corridor of history to you and me, “I do not ask for these only,” meaning those who were with him, “but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”
Let’s pause and try and grasp the reality that Jesus is literally praying for you and me in that moment. That you are in Jesus’ mind, that I am in Jesus’ mind, that the Church is in Jesus’ mind.
Look at the word “one” in verse 21: it literally means, “one thing”. He says, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you.” Here is Jesus, empowered by the full presence of the Holy Spirit, praying to the Father. You see this beautiful picture of the Trinity in operation here at this moment.
This is a text that’s talking about the unity of God’s people modeled after the Trinity. Jesus is dreaming about the moment when his people would actually work together as one. Collaboration is one of the things Jesus prays for his body. If Jesus is praying this, and this is a conviction, why do we opt out of it? God’s word says you care for orphans and widows, husbands are told to love their wives; we do not have an option to wiggle out of something God has mandated.
Unity in our Individuality
For those churches that uphold the gospel, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, that no person comes to the Father, except through trusting in him, are you willing to cheer for those churches? To serve those churches? To come alongside those churches and partner for the sake of the advancement of the Kingdom of God to push darkness out of your local geography?
In the manifold wisdom of God, he brings together this multifaceted and diverse group of people. I love what Kent Hughes says about this text. He says, "one of the glories of the gospel is that it hallows our individuality. It consecrates it and allows that to be special. It hallows our individuality, even while bringing us into unity."
That's what happens with multicultural unity, when men and women, and other churches come together. It's what happens in the plurality of leadership in the churches – it hallows our individuality. I'm gifted in a certain way for a certain purpose here in this context, but it brings us together in unity.
As Jesus is talking, Jesus isn't saying "I am you, Father." He's noticing the difference. But he's saying, "Even though there is a uniqueness about us, we're one.” We are the same. What the world is aching for is a picture of who God really is.
Collaboration to be One with God’s People
One of the things God ordained for his people, all of Christ's people, is that they would live as one in their local congregation, yes, but even outside of their local congregation, in their local tribes and their national tribes, and denominations, and networks. That the church of Jesus Christ would be one and that they would put the beauty and the splendor and the majesty of God on display.
Gospel saturation is the Church, not just one church, but THE Church owning the lostness of an identified people, in a defined place, insuring that every man, woman and child has repeated opportunities to see, hear, and respond to the good news of Jesus Christ. This, my friends, happens when we partner with churches in our geography for the sake of Gospel Saturation. The “how’s” will be covered in my next post.