Can WE Be The Difference?
Reconciliation in Networking
By Stan Elder
“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.” - Haggai 1:9
There is one thing many churches, ministries, individual believers miss: unity in the Church as a whole. We are very busy at building, creating, and remodeling our churches and ministries. We have an intense desire to see our individual churches and ministries shine. But if someone were to ask us if we have the same desire for the Church as a whole, we would honestly have to say, “No.”
What we miss with our myopia is nothing less than God’s great design for the Church to work as a powerful force in one unit. I believe God weeps over our division as He did in Haggai 1:9. Lucas Ramirez said in his powerful new book Designed for More: “Are we so busy working on our local congregations or ministries…that we have lost sight of the larger body?”
What if we see reconciliation happening in and throughout our ministries and churches? What if the body of Christ became united? Imagine the potential for healing that could happen in our ministries. When the Church is unified, then the mending and healing can happen in our communities. It has to start with us.
The healthiest networks of Christian leaders include those from different cultures and backgrounds who strive for reconciliation within themselves, the people they lead, and then their communities. They move beyond their organizational, denominational and racial barriers. They step outside of their comfort zones to bring hope to their communities.
This kind of networking understands that the solutions to the needs and issues of their communities are only within reach if they work together. They know how to pray for their communities, celebrate wins together, and pray for each other. They provide a place where honest thought and discussion occur, though it might be difficult, but honor loving conflict as essential to reconciliation. The result is a safe place for leaders to navigate and learn.
What happens through this sort of networking of amazing leaders is they make a greater impact together than they could possibly do apart. I have seen this in places like Harrison, Ohio – where many churches, organizations and ministries have come together to make an impact on their high schools. This coming together to pray, celebrate, encourage, challenge, and work has made inroads in that can only be realized when the body of Christ works together. It was so unusual that their efforts were brought to the attention of the state of Ohio superintendents’ conference.
Yes, it can be difficult to partner with other leaders who think differently than we, or when we are dropped into a culture different than ours. But when we move to the uncomfortable, we truly get to know the leaders. If we listen, we can hear their hearts. Not only will we see beautiful collaboration, we will gain so much from the relationships. It will deepen our knowledge and understanding of the community, and it will deepen our relationship with God. We start to see God’s design for unity and the full power of it. Through these relationships we start to grow in our prayer life, in our compassion for others, and much, much more. We will find that we are deeply blessed by God because of these friendships.
If we want a network that is healthy and powerful enough to make a real impact in our community, we must move our network from a group that looks and thinks like us, to the collaboration God designed us to experience. Let’s be what Jesus prayed for us to be in John 17:23: “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
I’m truly grateful for the people God has put in my life to experience a greater picture of unity: people like Fred Oduyoye, Reggie Tsang, Danielah Blackburn, Emily Alejo, Paco Pancham, and many others who have helped me to see the power of God’s people coming together.
Stan is a passionate follower of Jesus, husband to Nicole, and father of three wonderful children. He has been in youth ministry since 1994 and has served in church, parachurch and multicultural ministries. As the Ohio Valley Coordinator National Network of Youth Ministries , he has a passion to see churches united, communities being healed, schools being reached, and students come to know Jesus. We are Better Together!
If you are looking to connect with Stan and National Network of Youth Ministries email him: firstname.lastname@example.org