“Love (Your City)”
by Jacob Bloemberg
Summary of Chapter 7
Chapter 7: Partner
In Chapter 7, Bloemberg focuses on partnership, drawing on material from writers on Christian mission and cultural values. Quoting the theme of the Missio Nexus conference in 2018, he writes that partnership is necessary for problems that are “too big to do alone and too important not to do together.” Christians, he states, need to work together for the gospel’s sake and with non-Christians for the kingdom’s sake. Bloemberg cites the definition of partnership among Christians provided by Daniel Rickett, “a complementary relationship driven by a common purpose and sustained by a willingness to learn and grow together in obedience to God.” Churches may differ, just as the body of Christ has many parts, but they can find unity in mission.
Networks and partnerships
Another scholar, Phill Butler, explains the difference between networks and partnerships. Networks are “any group of individuals or organizations, sharing a common interest, who regularly communicate with each other to enhance their individual purposes.” Partnerships are “any group of individuals or organizations sharing a common interest, who regularly communicate, plan, and work together to achieve a common vision beyond the capacity of any one of the individual partners.” The Hanoi International Fellowship established CityPartners as an outreach ministry in order to create partnerships in the city so everyone can flourish. The Love in Action network was developed as a follow-up to the Love Hanoi Festival to unite pastors and ministry leaders with a heart for the city and their communities. Developing networks counteracts the idea that church money should only be used for church activities. This view relates to the Principles discussed in Chapter 4, that we are stewards of all creation, must love our neighbors unconditionally, and do good to those in need because this is how we emulate and serve Jesus.
Drawing on the work of Bob Roberts, Bloemberg states that the church acts as a connection center between believers and all of society’s domains: family, God’s people, education, media, culture, the economy, and government. In what Roberts calls the glocal church, every believer should be equipped for mission in their sphere or domain. Thinking about domains can help churches reflect more broadly about their city and identify opportunities for engagement.
To be successful in partnerships, people need to have a broad perspective similar to “court vision,” the ability to see what’s happening on a basketball court in a 180-degree arc, according to Linden. He recommends that leaders and teams consciously work to develop a collaborative mindset in themselves and others. Rickett points out that there are different levels of collaboration related to involvement and the level of interdependence along an alliance continuum. The continuum moves from association and alliances, to joint ventures, complementary partnerships and mergers. Collaboration requires the various partners to understand their compatibility in terms of leadership style and organizational culture in relationship to task integration. Bloemberg recommends that groups move slowly in developing partnerships in order to allow the parties to assess their compatibility.
Partnering across boundaries
Finally, cross-cultural relationships must be managed well to become an asset for a team. Here, Bloemberg writes, the work of Geert Hofstede and others in the Dimensions of Culture Survey (https://geerthofstede.com/culture-geert-hofstede-gert-jan-hofstede/6d-model-of national-culture/) can be very helpful. As an example, he compares power distance – the extent to which less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally – and individualism-collectivism – the extent to which people feel independent or interdependent. Bloemberg, who is Dutch, finds it easier to work with people from cultures with high scores in individualism and low power distance such as the U.S. or Australia, almost exactly the opposite of the cultural attitudes of Asian church members. These cultural difference affect how people make and implement decisions. To create cultural synergy across multicultural groups, Bloemberg recommends that team members know themselves, know their team, and know their styles, for example, selling ideas or telling people what to do.
*Next chapter: Chapter 8: People