Why Work Together as a Collective?

Every Christmas, families gather together to watch the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. At one point in the movie, the loans from the bank get called in. People are rushing to George Bailey, who is trying his best to leave on his honeymoon, to withdraw their money from the institution he runs, Bailey Bros Building and Loan. And George says something like, "No, you don't understand. The real resources are not just locked away in a vault in the back. No, you're thinking about this all wrong. Sam, your money's not here. It's over in Joe's house. Joe, your money's not here either. It's helping out, Pete. Pete just built his house. It's all there. The money's being put in circulation. We invest together to be able to move each other forward."

This is a great example of what It means to be a collective. I have come to the realization that it is incredibly important for our effectiveness in our work together that we come to agreement around the meaning of a single word. It's a word that ultimately defines and determines the ship that we are building and the speed by which that ship will sail forward. That word is collective.

We're not great commission denomination. We're not great commission seminary. We're not even great commission churches. We're a Great Commission Collective. What cannot happen is for the word “collective” to become malleable, like an empty cup that we fill with our own meaning. So what should fill that cup? What does it mean to be a Great Commission Collective?

The “We” of Collective Work

“Collective” means “we.” It means 'we'. The word itself actually conveys the intent, because the emphasis of the word 'collective' is something shared and done by many; not by a few, not by one, but by many. In contrast, if you say the word 'Episcopalian', if you say the word 'Presbyterian', that tells you something and tells me something about the leadership of the group that you identify with. It tells me something about how the leadership works and how governance works. But the word 'collective' is not like that.

A collective is a group where the burden for progress, the burden for forward movement, is shared by every member. Collective means collaboration. If interdependence is our conviction, then collaboration is our practice. Interdependence says, "We need each other." But that simple confession isn’t enough. Action must follow that confession. That action is called collaboration. Collaboration says, "Let's do something together. Let's create something together. Let's improve something together and let's do it together. Let's do mission together. Let's share resources together. Let's swap ideas. Let's learn from one another."

This has major implications: to say we are a collective also means that we contextualize. We are not franchised. We are contextualized. We are not model driven. We are values driven. What we have is attributes and values and a commitment to see those contextualize all over the world. If this is true, we cannot and will not function as a top-down organization. Collective work is “we” work, and we will only be as effective at accomplishing our mission as our effectiveness as working together.

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