616px-Wood_mosaicMore than 180,000 people move from a rural area to a city every day. In the next four decades, one out of every two people will move from the countryside to the city.

This global migration will generate challenges beyond our comprehension – challenges that will stretch us to collaborate with others well beyond our current practices.

The issues facing the urban world are simply too great for any one person or organization to resolve independently.

By nature, people of faith should demonstrate this mindset of collaboration more readily than others. Interdependence is built into the character of God and passed on to God’s creation.

Can you think of anything God created that is independent rather than interdependent? From ecosystems, weather, human bodies and molecular structures to a triune God – all function interdependently.

Cities also reflect this interdependence, having many interrelated, interdependent parts. Each part operates within a highly complex living system, coexisting and rarely operating autonomously.

We must recognize our interdependence, so we can come alongside others – sharing ideas, people and resources in our cities.

Yet what does this look like in practice?

I have a friend who tells the story of how the churches in his city came together many years ago to host a Billy Graham event. During this time, churches put aside individual gain for the sake of something larger.

The result? A positive and significant citywide impact.

Cooperative efforts like this should not be the exception. When we understand collaboration correctly, it becomes our posture and the normative action in the city.

No one organization can positively impact a city while operating independently.

Collaboration also extends beyond churches to public organizations, such as schools, social and municipal groups.

A biblical context for this is found in the book of Jeremiah. The exiles living in Babylon are admonished to pursue the good of the city.

“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

Collaboration does not mean that we lose our distinctive characteristics to work with others. In fact, the diversity of the city calls us to embrace our differences in order to be effective. One-size-fits-all does not work in the urban world.

Consequently, we differentiate ourselves, while simultaneously moving toward others in cooperation. As we do this, we discover common values and goals – and that we are stronger and more effective together.

Collaboration must stay at the forefront of our minds. If someone wants to pursue a new idea, the first question should be, “Is someone already doing this in Berlin?”

If the answer is “yes,” then it is a better choice to move toward others in cooperation, strengthening the existing effort rather than reproducing what is already being done.

Does this mean there is no place for new initiatives? Not at all.

But when they are created, it is not to compete with or to provide a better option to what already exists. There must be clear and compelling reasons for not collaborating before acting differently.

When we – as associations, ministries and individuals – join forces, we bring together ideas and mobilize resources in a capacity that surpasses what any one of us is capable of doing. Unity in diversity is necessary to impact a city.

We can do far more together, acting interdependently, than we can alone.

About the Author

With a degree in Urban Theology and a compassion for people, Mike's love for the city is contagious. He can be found running along the Spree River in his spare moments.
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