Ed: What inspired you to write Rooting for Rivals?
Peter and Chris: A few years ago, a foundation executive in Tennessee shared with us that in just one year, three different agencies approached him for funding to translate the Bible into the same language for the same people group. The impact was going to be a third of what it could have been if each organization had focused on a different language!
This type of redundancy and lack of cooperation is widespread in our churches, charities, and nonprofits. Rather than seeing fellow organizations as partners in the kingdom, we’re prone to see them as our competitors.
We long to see a different posture and approach, where followers of Christ seek first the kingdom of God. We wrote Rooting for Rivals to understand what inhibits collaboration and more importantly, to celebrate examples of organizations that model outrageous generosity and openhandedness. Ultimately, we want to collectively pursue a calling higher than any one organization’s agenda.
Ed: What are the hallmarks of openhanded, generous leaders?
Peter and Chris: Over the past two years, we have had the opportunity to talk with countless individuals and organizations modeling a rooting-for-rivals approach. Though their schedules were full, they always seemed to make time to listen fully, invest deeply, and share openly. It was as if they had a calling and passion that superseded their organization—that helping us was in some way part of their mission.
At the core, what set these generous, openhanded leaders apart was how they answered these two questions:
First, do we believe in a world of scarcity or abundance? If we believe in a world of scarcity, we see someone else’s success as less for us. But if we believe in God’s abundance, we aren’t threatened by the success of our “rivals.” Instead, we have the freedom to celebrate their success, knowing that we serve a God who multiplied loaves and fish to feed thousands. Over and over again in Scripture, we see that our God is a God of abundance.
Second, do we believe our calling is to our clan or the kingdom of God? If we see our responsibilities ending at our organizational boundaries, then we care little about the world beyond. But if we believe our calling is to the kingdom of God above our own organizations, then we instead have the freedom to work together—without unnecessary replication or concern about who gets the credit. As churches and nonprofits, we can accomplish far more together than we ever could alone.
What about the nature of the God’s kingdom lends itself to openhanded collaboration and generosity between followers of Christ?
In John 17:21, Jesus prays “that [we] may become perfectly one,” so that the world may know the Father’s love. The implication of his words here is that the Church’s witness to the world hinges on our unity. The unity of God’s people coupled with His extraordinary generosity ultimately compel us to root for our rivals.
Intuitively, we know that we’re on the same team, but reality tells another story. If we are at all unified, it’s probably in our agreement that we are a nation and a Church divided.
Jesus says our oneness is the way that others will identify us as His followers: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Yet as clearly as Jesus prioritized unity among his followers, we are quick to disregard it. Our natural inclination is to splinter. For Protestants, protest is in our very name. Throughout church history, when disagreements emerge, we split.
There are important and legitimate reasons for churches to split and organizations to hold strong boundaries. There is a time to separate—our intent is not to suggest otherwise. But there is an opportunity for Christians to find unity even in disagreement.
There is an opportunity for us to build bridges across the lines that divide us. In this bright age of individualism, intellectual property rights, and splintering denominations, our unity in Christ is fading. But, “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Ps. 133:1).
When we consider the power and beauty of what we hold in common, our divisions can seem almost trivial.
Ed: Share a story about a leader or organization who consistently models a rooting-for-rivals approach?
Peter: I was returning home from a conference in Cape Town, South Africa, several years ago when I saw Wess Stafford, President Emeritus of Compassion International, in the airport. In terms of organizational size and reputation, he was Michael Jordan, and I was the kid shooting hoops at the park waiting for his growth spurt. Wess was a keynote speaker at the conference, where he not only presented but also was bombarded during meals and in the hallways by people eager to have a few minutes with him.
He must have been exhausted.
As he sat in the airport reading a book, I awkwardly approached him, bumbled through an introduction, and asked if I could ask him a few questions.
His response exuded uncommon generosity. Putting his book away, he invited me to sit down, answered my questions, and showed genuine interest in our conversation. He shared freely from his experiences and even offered to share any of Compassion’s documents and manuals that could be helpful.
He had no idea who I was, yet he gave me his undivided attention. Even though I was coming from a ‘rival’ organization, he exhibited such radical generosity with his time and resources.
Encounters with Wess and other openhanded leaders have left a lasting impression. We’re inspired by leaders who believe they have a calling beyond just building their organization, and we actively seek to follow in their footsteps.
Ed: What do you hope people do differently as a result of reading this book?
Peter and Chris: Augustine said that the three most important virtues for Christians are humility, humility, and humility. Cultivating humility, regardless of our age or stage in life, starts with a simple willingness to name our failures and shortcomings. We need to talk openly with others about the reasons we don’t more actively partner and collaborate. As we take steps to acknowledge our need for others, we open the door to leading and serving others well—and truly, rooting for our rivals.