There’s something missing from many of our efforts and church strategies. We understand the great commission; and we believe in the great commandment; but we have forgotten Jesus’ challenge of the great collaboration in John 17 that we are to do the mission “Together!”
Most of us would declare we are part of a church. But as pastors and ministry leaders, are we actually doing life together with the church?
It’s not too late to get in on The Great Collaboration conversation. We want to urge you to join us in the pursuit of Jesus’ mission – to embrace the power of working together as a body of believers for kingdom multiplication. In our very first post on this topic, Dave Ferguson and Patrick O’Connell presented the church with a huge problem, a missing piece in the body of Christ – Togetherness. Today they share the remarkable story of how being together saved the life of a child and how it can heal the body of Christ. We are better together!
Daniel spent the first seven years of his life always sleeping in a sitting-up position. That’s how he slept in the Romanian orphanage he lived in with more than one hundred other children. Every night, he was forced to sleep in a crib with another child. It was too small for either child to lie down, so they both were forced to sleep sitting up.
During those seven years, he didn’t go to school; he didn’t go outside and he only left the crib to eat or go to the bathroom. There were adults present during the day and others who kept watch at night, but he can’t recall any of their names or a single interaction.
Meanwhile, in Euclid, Ohio, Heidi Solomon and her husband Rick were going through a home study to adopt a child when she saw a picture of Daniel in a brochure. Heidi can’t explain why, but his picture seemed to illuminate.
“I think this is supposed to be our son,” she told Rick.
Several weeks later, the Solomons flew to Romania. When they got off the plane, a little dark-haired seven-year-old boy named Daniel stood in front of them dancing and excited to greet them.
The first six months for this new family were filled with lots of “firsts” and lots of joy. Adoption and being parents were going much easier than either Rick or Heidi anticipated.
But then at Daniel’s first birthday party with his new family, the honeymoon ended. Since he had never had a birthday, Daniel had never thought about being born or having a family and had never wondered why he was abandoned and left in an orphanage. Now he had all of those questions and that brought on an out-of-control rage that ravaged his adopted parents.
Daniel’s tantrums were tornadoes of anger. Over the next year, he pounded hundreds of holes in the wall of his room. He attacked Heidi, leaving her with a black eye and then laughing about it. Another time in the kitchen, he held a knife to his new mother’s throat and threatened her. He became so violent they were calling the police several times a month and eventually hired a bodyguard. They bought him a puppy, and he tried to strangle the dog. The next few years were a daily nightmare.
When Daniel was ten, their case manager told Heidi, “Here is what I think is going to happen: Daniel is going to hurt you; you are going to end up in the hospital; he will be in juvenile detention, and your husband is going to leave you.”
The case manager explained that Daniel suffered from detachment disorder and was unable to connect to other people. This disorder came from never bonding with a parent as a baby. This meant that he would never feel empathy, would never have a conscience and therefore could hurt other people without feeling guilty. The case manager told her they had done everything they could and should consider other options than Daniel living with them.
But Heidi refused to give up on Daniel. She began to use a radical approach to re-parenting him called “attachment therapy” developed by Dr. Ronald Federici. This new tactic would mean that Heidi would spend every moment together with Daniel. The goal was to recreate the bond of a newborn baby and a mother that Daniel never experienced. This meant they would never be more than three feet apart. So she and Daniel were constantly together for the next several months.
If he was on the couch, she was together with him. If Daniel was in the backyard playing, his mother was together next to him. If he was reading a book, Heidi would cuddle right up next to him. If Daniel didn’t comply, the punishment was a hug. Every night, both Heidi and Rick would cradle Daniel between them and hold him while eating ice cream as a bribe. They’d all be as close together as possible for twenty minutes every evening.
Daniel, now in his 20s, says, “After constantly being together, something changed … I started to realize that they really loved me.” Heidi, Rick and Daniel will all tell you that it was being together that cured him of his violent behavior—it was gone for good! It was then that he started talking about what had happened in the orphanage. He began to behave appropriately in a classroom. He made friends with other kids. A transformation began to take place. It was intentionally, relentlessly and lovingly being together that saved Daniel’s life.
Is the Church Suffering from Detachment Disorder?
As I think about the Church and where we are today, Daniel’s story brings up some compelling questions:
If attachment therapy can save a human life, can being together bring life to the body of Christ?
If being family can heal a person, can living in community heal our churches?
If the church is made of people who thrive when they are together and fail to thrive when on their own, doesn’t it make sense that the body of Christ will flourish when we come together; and perish when we abandon one another?
I would respond to all three questions with a loud and emphatic “Yes!”
We have to bring the Good News of the Great Collaboration to our churches. Our people are lonely. Our leaders think they have to do it on their own. Our church plants are orphaned. My diagnosis of the Western church tells me that we have a failure to thrive and that we are suffering from a detachment disorder. And it’s killing us in every way.
If we want our communities to flourish and the Church to thrive, it will take leaders and churches intentionally, relentlessly and lovingly coming together!
Unfortunately, our churches in the West are like the people who make them up – independent and autonomous. As in the story of young Daniel, our churches suffer from “detachment disorder.” They have not been challenged with the importance of the Great Collaboration. They don’t understand the value of networks or how to form networks. They don’t have the skills of collaborative leadership. They might conceptually believe they are better together, but they don’t know how to do it and they don’t know anyone who has done it.
That’s why we have to take seriously, not only the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, but also the Great Collaboration. There are too many leaders who are like I was—dreaming a big dream, but thinking they have to do it on their own. In the same way, I came to realize that if I was going to see 200 churches planted all over Chicagoland, the better way to go about it was through a network than on my own. We need key apostolic leaders to have that same awakening! The big dream of a movement of multiplying churches in the Western world is best accomplished through four to five churches coming together to form networks.
There are too many leaders who are like I was—dreaming a big dream, but thinking they have to do it on their own.
Answering Jesus’ Prayer
Jesus knew we would face this challenge. It’s comforting to know He anticipated this very moment in time. It was after He prayed for His disciples that He prayed for you and me: My prayer is not for them alone (His disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message (us), that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (John 17:20-23, emphasis mine).
Jesus prayed that we would have the courage to do the very things we have been talking about. He prayed that all who believe in Him would also come together as one. In the same way that the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are one and in the beginning created the world together, God wants us to be one. He wants to use us to restore the world back to what He created in the beginning! That will only happen when we come together!
Glimpses of Jesus’ Prayer Being Answered
It was a Monday night in a London pub in the Spitalfields neighborhood where I got a glimpse of Jesus’ prayer being answered. We had assembled leaders from all over the globe to pray and plan about how to plant 10,000 churches; see 10,000 churches commit to ongoing multiplication; and how we could do this in all 196 countries of the world.
While our dream was big and bold, it was not nearly as impressive as what I saw in the room. In that room were men and women; people of every color and hue; leaders from all over the world. The program had ended hours before, and now they were enjoying each other as friends. I saw the Filipinos hanging out with the Europeans. The Africans were laughing with some of the Americans. The Aussies were swapping stories with leaders from India. They were all gathered for one purpose—the mission of Jesus. It was the Great Collaboration. It was the answer to Jesus’ prayer.
We can be the answer to Jesus’ prayer. We have the opportunity to be the generation that comes together and leads His movement of redemption and love to a lost and lonely world. If we are one, the world will know that God is one and they will be one!
We have the opportunity to be the generation that comes together and leads His movement of redemption and love to a lost and lonely world.
As I was writing this, I got an email from Oscar Leiva, my Chicago church planting network leader, reminding me that we were meeting at a church on Chicago’s South Side next week. Oscar lives in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, and I live out in the suburbs. Oscar is Hispanic, and I’m ninety-three percent English. Oscar leads a church that’s Reformed in their theology, and I lean more Armenian. He’s complementarian, and I’m egalitarian. Oscar and I have a lot of differences; but we both call Jesus Lord and are both committed to planting new churches together. I believe our growing friendship is an answer to Jesus’ prayer.
How about you? Will you commit to being the answer to Jesus’ prayer? It will require that you choose God’s kingdom over your own castle. It will mean that as a leader, you make a decision to be a hero maker and not be the hero. It will mean having a circle that is big enough to include people who call Jesus Lord and small enough to focus on the mission of Jesus.
We can answer Jesus’ prayer. You can. I can.
How? Together. We are always better together!
Changing the world is more than any one of us can do—but it’s not more than all of us can do together.
We are better together!
This post is based on the book, Together: The Great Collaboration, by Dave Ferguson. To download your copy, visit: exponential.org/ebooks Together: Pursuing the Great Collaboration is Exponential’s 2021 theme. To learn more, visit: exponential.org/events
Want to go deeper into this conversation? Attend an Exponential 2021 Regional Conference in a city near you this fall. Learn more here.
And, join thousands of leaders for inspiration, encouragement and equipping at Exponential 2022 in Orlando, FL. The conference brings together over 100 speakers, 150 workshops, 10 pre-conference intensives, and 75+ networks and denominations. It’s the perfect opportunity to bring your team together to gain the tools you need to move your church forward. For information about bringing your team to the global conference, click here.