It was March 15th, 2009 the day I took my children to Petco Park, to watch the baseball game of Japan versus Cuba. It was the World Baseball Classic and we were really excited. For us in San Diego, this was a once in a lifetime experience.
For Cubans when I was growing up, baseball was the top sport. The first and most important gift any child could receive was a baseball glove or ball. I was even taught in elementary school that we Cubans invented baseball—something I later found out was not true. But, hey, every country writes their own history books, right?
Go for the glory!
I had been reading about Japanese baseball and I was intrigued by the way they play as a team. They play a technical type of game with precise strategic plays. A player is willing to sacrifice his batting average to move a team member from first to second base. What an incredible concept… teamwork!
Not in Cuba! No sir. On the island, we play a different game. We are taught to “Go for the glory!” Whenever you get a chance at batting, try to hit a homerun. Hit that ball out of the park and see your picture the next day on the front page of the newspapers. Be the best! Be number one! A sacrifice bunt is not in the Cuban playbook.
I saw, sadly, that in the game against Japan, Cuba had no strategy. Every player was trying to hit the ball out of the park. No team work. Japan, on the other hand, played as a team. They showed humility. No one was trying to be bigger than their fellow team member, and as a result, they won the game 6-0.
Evangelism is not the work of one man!
I believe Japan’s teamwork in that baseball game represents the spirit we evangelists should have when it comes to evangelism. The need to hit the homerun, be recognized, praised, respected, and mentioned, is probably the greatest enemy a collaborative venture can have.
Therefore, dying to ourselves and our own interests is one of the most imminent requirements needed for collaboration between evangelists to work.
We must not confuse this with the need for leadership and the order of authority. Of course, in every collaborative project there must be a director, a chairman. Someone has to design the model and be responsible for paying the bills when the venture is completed. Order, discipline, and strategy need good leadership and just as in baseball, the team needs a leader.
It is interesting, however, that you rarely see that team manager on the field. You might see him come talk to the pitcher when there is a crisis, or when an important decision is needed. But for the most part, the manager will stay in the dugout, making sure everything is running according to plan. In baseball, the manager is not the star of the game. It’s his job to promote others and see their gifts and talents shine on the field. In the end, the whole team gets to celebrate victory together.
Collaboration is based on generosity
Many seek the favor of the generous, and everyone is a friend to a giver of gifts. Proverbs 19:6 (NRSV)
As we older evangelists take the role of mentoring this new generation of brilliant and talented young messengers of good news, it is important that we, in the words of Wendy Palau at a 2014 NGA Re:fuel event “take less space.” Though she was speaking on a different topic, the idea for collaboration is the same. It is important that we allow young evangelists to come in and play key roles.
This is going to take a lot more than words. It will take sharing, making opportunities available to others, and using our established relationships in cities and countries to open platforms and new venues for the up and coming young evangelists.
Generosity is the habit of giving without expecting anything in return. However, God always rewards the giver in ways we cannot explain. Paul writing to the Corinthians puts it this way: Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6 (NIV)
Collaboration is about reciprocity
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes reciprocity as “A mutual exchange of privileges. Mutual dependence.” We cannot have effective collaboration without reciprocity, for it is through reciprocity that we can ensure that collaborative contribution is equally valued.
Here are some key characteristics of true reciprocity:
- It can involve two or more people
- There is an expectation that there will be a fair exchange
- Trust is important to establish and maintain reciprocal arrangements
Collaboration through reciprocity is evident in successful city wide outreaches. It’s often seen in activities in which one evangelist may provide a specific benefit that helps another evangelist, in return for something he needs in his area of ministry.
For example, evangelist John needs to hold an outreach at the north side of the city. He is a proclamation evangelist but has no musical skills. Evangelist Peter plays the guitar, however, he doesn’t have the experience needed to publicly proclaim the Good News to the specific demographics at the north side of the city. They need each other.
John will benefit Peter by exposing him to an audience Peter cannot reach alone and in exchange Peter will benefit John by bringing music to his event. This type of reciprocity is a “win-win” situation for both Evangelists. One will complement the other and together, each ministry will benefit from the other.
Collaboration is about collective work
The itinerant evangelist can easily become isolated. The road can be lonely. Evangelists don’t fit in many areas of church life today. When church culture—especially in America—turns inward (our building, our community, our couples group, our singles group, our Sunday school class, our midweek Bible study); an evangelist whose vision turns outward (to missions, nations, other groups and cultures) can get exceedingly frustrated and sometimes even feel they are an outsider.
Allow me to say that this might not be the case with the church where you and your family congregate, and I praise God for that (please stay there), but it can be the case with many churches.
However, when we evangelists come together, we understand each other and can identify with one another. And when we come together to collaborate, we can support each other well because we understand the nature of the office of the evangelist.
Sharing the spiritual load
On the road, at the hotel, during the execution of that evangelistic project, we pray for each other, communicating challenges and needs, sharing innovative ideas and best practices.
One evangelist ministers in one area and another in another area. In our festivals we have evangelists come to specifically minister to single mothers or to people with addictions. That’s
their gift, and they know how to get into areas where others cannot and how to get better results. We share the load on reaching those people for Christ. Through collaboration we can touch every level of society in a city and country.
Sharing the emotional load
Evangelizing cities is a huge undertaking.
A city wide event takes a great deal out of the people responsible for making decisions. It can be tiring. Things can go wrong. The stress levels rise, and yes, we trust the Lord to help us confront every situation, but our emotions are affected in the process.
Having a team of people united by one purpose—to bring Christ to that city—is key for the emotional stability of all decision makers. Sometimes a pat on the back or just a simple word of
comfort is all that it takes to bring someone under heavy stress back to balance.
We all need to know that we are not alone on this.
Sharing financial responsibility
It is expensive to do a city wide mass evangelistic event, or a missionary project, or a humanitarian mission. Sometimes for one ministry alone, it is very difficult. But when several ministries come together, they not only share the opportunity of ministering to the needs of the people, they can also share the financial obligations that make the project possible, reaching more people, more effectively.
When you collaborate with others, it is easier to accomplish the work of reaching the lost with the message of Christ. When you allow others to come in and collaborate with you, you are not only able to raise the budget needed to reach that city or people, you have the opportunity to share ministry with others. It is the way evangelists can work together to bring the good news to every generation.
And together, we can do it.
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