Tag Archives: partnership

Paean to partners

Someone sabotaged our computer. We discovered what they did right before we wanted to do a few things for the meeting last night. Three of us were huddled in front of it lamenting, offering ineffectual suggestions and generally having some mutual anxiety — and that just before we were to lead an evening centered on “not worrying!”

Now that everything worked out fine-if-not-perfectly, I look back fondly on the scene – back on how our strange little partnership in the gospel was revealed in that moment. We were anxious about something only Jesus could get us together to be anxious about. Each of us had travelled a long distance geographically and culturally to become important in a new kingdom and tribe. I like it when I notice that blessing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about being partners lately and feeling thankful. I think my feeling is a lot like what Paul felt about the Philippians when he started a letter to them with: “I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:4). From the first day of Circle of Hope until now, I have had such amazing partners, beginning with my wife and family and then one person after another who Jesus drew together to form our incendiary community of faith: partners in building community, making disciples, showing compassion, doing business, inventing administration, weathering crises, sharing money and standing together in problems a lot worse than a sabotaged computer! What a blessing!

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Partnership

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…Philippians 1:3-5

When I first parachuted into Philadelphia, my conviction was that I was sent to catalyze a group of partners who were already in town and build the next generation of the church for the next generation of the megalopolis. I found them. To be honest, it was a little shocking to see my conviction come to fruit. I don’t mind tilting at windmills, but seeing God make Circle of Hope was not like that at all.

Lately, the leaders of Circle of Hope have realized that we are a whole new church. What we need to do is do it again. To express heart all that Circle of Hope has become: 50-plus cells, almost four congregations, mission teams large and small, we need to find the partners the Lord is touching. These are people who can see the possibilities of who God has made us and take hold of the vision of what He would like to do. We need to welcome them in and catalyze the next 600.

I’ve always liked the word “partner” to describe the relationship I have with people who have been plucked from nowhere with me by the story of Jesus. What we end up doing is so much like being dance partners: moving together to the music of God. How we end up moving so often begins like the Jr. High dances I remember so well: full of anticipation, fear, awkwardness and thrill. Coming together and moving together for a common good given by God is being truly alive.

The word “partnership” in the NIV translation of  Philippians, above, could have been translated “dance moves,” I suppose. It is trying to make sense of the rich Greek word “koinonia.” A few years ago, it became popular to just use the word koinonia without translating it at all. That might be the best idea, since the idea of it is often too rich to sum up in English. In the various translations of these few sentences of Paul’s letter to the dancers in Philippi, the translation leans two appropriate ways. On the one hand, some translators lean toward the “being” side of koinonia — like when Jesus says “good trees bear good fruit,” they lean it toward being good trees. Thus Paul is thankful for their partnership, fellowship, communion, and sharing in the gospel. Others lean the translation toward bearing good fruit. So Paul is grateful for their participation, sympathetic cooperation, help, contribution and collaboration in the gospel.

I have always been interested in this interplay between being and doing. The monastic discipline organized the day around contemplation and action from the earliest times to get a handle on it. It is like a dance. A broken creation that is spirit and flesh needs to keep practicing that dance. Circle of Hope (a good tree) and its mission (to bear good fruit) is a way to work out that ancient discipline in the Philadelphia region. I am amazed at how we are doing it! At this point, we have made room for many more partners and we have been given a vision that requires them. If we often resemble a Jr. High dance as we are getting all those people to move together, that’s OK.