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October 4, 2019Culture, Leadership, Missiology

Collaboration: Is It Time?

Every Tribe Every Nation has found that collective impact is the key to further God's kingdom.
Collaboration: Is It Time?
Image: Rawpixel/Pixabay

Within the realm of Bible translating, two centuries ago was the era of exploration when explorers were commissioned to discover the regions of the world that were suffering from a lack of God’s Word. Last century was the era of individual pioneers who saw the potential to extend boundaries and reach recording-breaking numbers of people with the Bible for the first time.

Might this century be the era of collaborators, tackling challenges so large that they must be accomplished collectively rather than going in alone?

The idea and practice of 'collective impact' is ripe for this century as we seek to eradicate Bible poverty.

Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN), representing the Alliance of Bible translation organizations and resource partners, came together in the early part of this decade. It’s comprised of CEOs of ten different Bible translation organizations and five resource partners who meet monthly and function as a steering committee. ETEN has four goals for 2033:

  • Create two translations for the world’s top 100 languages
  • Provide the full Bible to population sizes over 500,000
  • Provide the New Testament to population sizes between 5,000 and 499,999
  • Provide 25 chapters of the Word of God to population sizes between 1 and 4,999

This collective impact collaboration has already been observed in Christianity Today and written about through the lens of Peter Greer, CEO of Hope International.

But what is it really like on the inside, and ‘why’ as a CEO am I personally committed to this alliance? Allow me to describe the journey herewith in five different points.

Collaboration is not about scarcity of resources. It is about the stewardship of resources. Having worked at Ernst and Young and also in several other organizations, our primary mode of thinking was the ownership of resources.

Indeed, it was only at the turn of this new century that I grew to understand the biblical framework of stewardship of resources. Resources are in abundance. Truth be known, in our own organization, I often say to our colleagues we have only ‘one giver’, and that is our Lord! We are here to assist and facilitate the stewardship of that giving.

Do we talk about money and funding in our ETEN meetings? Absolutely. But that is a secondary concern. The greater focus is on how collaboration is happening across organizations and how funding has a catalytic role towards reaching our goals.

Collaboration is not compromise. Some have described compromise as everyone giving up something. One can imagine or may have witnessed Christian passive-aggressive feelings behind those decisions. However, we have to choose differently. Collaboration really has to do with participants intentionally looking at solutions and reaching mutual agreement.

Recently, ETEN made a decision to take a sabbatical for a fundraising gathering in 2020. Every organization represented in the Alliance agreed to this sabbatical. However, the work leading up to this decision took nearly a year.

Collaboration is intentional. In a Western society and state of mind, individualism is placed at the forefront of virtually every sphere of work. To come together as a community in this environment takes intentionality.

The Bible translation Alliance is not just about individuals; it is about organizations coming together. Things can get messy. And as one of the CEOs within the Alliance fondly said, “At times, we may not all like each other.”

Intentionality is a choice. Certainly, John 17 does come to mind, and the Word seeks to take root in us to guide us as we try to be intentional. In the same way every CEO must be intentional with the effective allocation of resources, he or she must also consider if collaboration will allow the Bibleless to receive Scripture sooner in their heart language. Where collaboration will enhance our ability to achieve a goal, we must be intentional about pursuing it.

Collaboration is completing. That great cloud of witnesses aptly described in Hebrews 12 is both eternal and temporal. We are arrayed in both chronos and kairos for God's purpose. Might it be, from an eternal perspective, that to God's delight we are able to come together to do something that is God-ordained for us and could be done only in collaboration? In this sense, we are completing each other; and we are able to bring to completion what God has entrusted.

Collaboration is kingdom generosity. When we are brutally honest with ourselves and with our respective organizations, we are able to identify our own insufficiencies and realize the need we have for others to complete us—and possibly for us to complete others.

Once we comprehend the beauty of completing others, there exists a possibility to be generous. We are able to take on the posture of ‘giving’ differently.

Please don’t get me wrong; I am not saying everything we give away would exemplify generosity. In fact, if no one wants what you are giving away, you might simply be giving away junk. However, tangibly giving something away, including your invaluable ‘secret sauce’, so that all collaborators can be better and move toward a desired goal, is to be commended. Within the Alliance this has happened, and this is why the Alliance is important to me. It requires me, and other CEOs, to live differently.

For far too long, leaders and their ministries have been measured based on their own individual growth. Yes, this is an important measurement. However, what if for the 21st century we included a measurement based on levels of collaboration so that a collective impact goal can be advanced?

Might it be that in order to better benefit and transform communities and countries for the kingdom, organizations need to demonstrate a kingdom-mindset by intentionally pursuing a collective consciousness? Might it be that our intentional collaboration will shed new light on an eternal reality ‘so that the world will know?’

Samuel Chiang serves as President/CEO of The Seed Company.

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Collaboration: Is It Time?