I mentioned before the importance of honoring the people you work with, the members of your community. All the members of your community. This is an issue that was raised in the early church in James 2 (remember the brothers and sisters who showed favoritism to those with gold rings and ignored the ones with shabby clothes?) and continues to be an issue today – whether because of appearance, wealth, power, race, language, gender, sexual orientation. There are several lessons to be learned:
Radical collaboration involves a high degree of reciprocity, so much so that individual ownership of an idea or a project or a church or a movement is impossible. Think about the view the early church had about possessions. They sold all they had and distributed the proceeds according to need among them (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35).
I am not proposing that radical collaboration necessitates selling everything we own. But, I am proposing that radical collaborate demands rethinking how we value our time, our talents and our resources. Over and over in Acts and the Letters (and in the life of Jesus), we see relationship elevated over wealth, power, status, propriety, expectations, identity, position.
Radical collaboration requires humility, listening (this word pops up a lot!), recognizing privileges, seeking to honor and invite others to participate, letting go of control and ownership (something I find very difficult for churches to do with established ministry programs), and working through relationship. But, isn’t this the example that Jesus gave us for living in his Kingdom throughout the gospels?
If our goal is to invite people into a new way of doing community (informed by faith), then we must engage in the highest levels of working together and community empowerment. We must pursue reciprocity, especially because so often the very people we seek to serve are those who have been hurt by the church, who have been taken advantage of by even well-meaning folks, and who have been manipulated to further economic or personal agendas.
This takes a good deal of self-awareness and humility. It is hard work, but the harvest is bountiful!
Ruth M. Smith
Community arts educator and researcher. Drinking coffee. Home educating. Making art. Listening intentionally.