Monday, May 9, 2016

Genesis 11: 1-9 Collaborate, not Compete

KEY TEXT: Gen 11:6-9 And the Lord said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech." So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Language is a powerful medium of communication. When men can communicate they can also collaborate. And through the medium of language, the men of Babel came together and pooled their knowledge and skill to “make a name for ourselves” by building a tower to reach the heavens. This desire to exalt self has been the motivation for the competition even today to build the tallest tower in the world. These towers are monuments to the human ego. (Current record holder is Burj Khalifa at 829.8 m in Dubai). In Babel, God intervened to destroy human ego and to remove from mankind the power of collaboration—viz., communication. Instead of one world language, the Lord confused their tongues, producing multiplicity of languages, so that they could not communicate to collaborate. Once they were unable to communicate, they dispersed.

Perhaps, there is a positive lesson here somewhere for the church: collaboration through a common language has enabled the men of Babel to build an immense tower. While the motivation is ungodly, their achievement was commendable, for they demonstrated the power of human collaboration. The positive lesson is that when we have collaboration instead of competition, we can build any size church we want. The problem with churches is that we are more prone to competition (intra- and inter-church) than collaboration. 

In the twentieth century alone, we witness the dramatic increase in technological innovations in 100 years through collaboration with a common working language—English. From the first flight by the Wright brothers in 1903 to the first man on the moon in 1969 is a mere 63 years. In the same 100 year period, computers shrank from room-size (60's) to desktop-size (80's) to laptop-size (90's) to palm-size mobile phones (2000s). There is more power in today's mobile phones than the computers that sent the first Apollo astronauts to the moon in 1969. And with the rise of the Internet in the 80's global communication technology has completely revolutionized how information is disseminated in the last 30 years.

Perhaps, churches can learn a lesson from the power of collaboration: if more churches collaborate instead of compete, we will see even greater advance through the gospel for the kingdom of God. To collaborate instead of compete, churches need to speak the same language (build kingdom, not empires), be on the same page (adopt a missional vision) and find common ground (focus on what unite, not what divide). Alpha has been an example of how collaboration instead of competition has resulted in the expansion of the kingdom of God and the growth of churches. Even within the same church, Alpha has been instrumental in facilitating collaboration across ministries (worship, discipleship, prayer and ministry teams). 

When churches and Christians speak the same kingdom language and collaborate for the sake of the gospel by pooling their resources together, there is nothing we cannot achieve for God's kingdom. 

Father God, what great gift You have given to mankind in our power to communicate and collaborate. May we use this power to advance Your kingdom, not our ego. Amen.

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