I recently returned from a family trip in France where I had the opportunity to take a beautiful bicycle ride. I spend time nearly every week spinning or cycling and I love the exhilarating feeling of changing pace from a slow mountain climb to a flat road sprint.
Not more than a month before our trip, the most famous cycling event in the world had just passed through the city where we were staying. It was the Tour de France – a grueling 21-day race 3,500 kilometers long, passing from sea level to mountain heights of more than 2000 meters and back down again, circling more than half the entire country of France and parts of England.
The Tour de France has run nearly every year since 1903. The race has 21 stages and there is a winner for each stage in addition to an overall winner. It takes a great deal of training, planning, teamwork, and logistical support to even complete the Tour de France – much more so to actually win.
The race can be incredibly difficult and dangerous for cyclists to navigate on their own, so the main riders usually combine to form what is called a peloton – an aerodynamic V-shaped group like a flock of birds. The peloton is a very important part of long distance racing because cyclists in a peloton can save a tremendous amount of energy by riding close together. The reduction in drag accomplished by drafting or slipstreaming together can be as much as 40% in a tight group!
visionsynergy is an unusual type of ministry. We serve as coaches, consultants, and catalysts for missional networks. Much of our time is spent advising, equipping, and supporting other Christian leaders who are working together in various collaborative initiatives to advance the mission of Jesus around the world.
People sometimes ask, “What is the value of having an outside advisor like visionSynergy? Collaboration isn’t rocket science. Can’t groups figure these things out on their own?”
Yes, of course people can collaborate without guidance from an outside advisor. At the same time, we have found that groups often find themselves in “the desert of creativity“ – going around in circles without a clear sense of how to navigate through the inevitable challenges of working in partnership with others.
Having gained all their experience and training within individualistic organizations, leaders sometimes struggle to figure out how to facilitate large-scale collaboration across organizational boundaries.
The reality is that people are not born knowing how to tie their own shoes, much less how to lead networks and partnerships to work together effectively. Collaborative leadership requires a different set of skills than most of us acquire in the normal course of our experience.
This is where an outside advisor can provide perspective – a path through the desert of creativity to the wide blue ocean of collaboration.
There’s a story that illustrates how we as advisors help the groups we serve.
It is a story about a camel.
Here’s a true story we heard recently from one of the networks we serve. May this story encourage those who long for the Gospel to make inroads in the often-difficult countries of the Arabian Peninsula.
In challenging mission locations such as the Arabian Peninsula, regional evangelism networks often play an important role in supporting the valiant efforts of individuals in direct ministry – not only through personal encouragement, but also by spreading word of their initiatives in order to draw funds, mobilize volunteers, and create local contacts.
One country in the Arabian Peninsula has only a single, openly Christian bookstore. Recently the owner of that bookstore got a call from a nameless woman who said she absolutely must have a set of Christian Bibles and resources. The owner invited her to come to the store, adding “I’m open now!”
- By Phill Butler
I was recently on an early morning trip to the airport for a flight overseas. In my city, the road to the airport crosses a bridge over a large lake. After crossing the bridge, I heard an ambulance siren coming up behind the rear of my car. Along with other drivers I pulled over and said a prayer for whoever was inside the ambulance.
Moments later I began thinking: Nobody really likes paying taxes, but we surely value – and rely on – many of the services that our taxes provide. Whoever picked up the phone early that morning and called emergency services for an ambulance could never have expected a quick response if thousands of other people had not paid the taxes that created the infrastructure to allow that ambulance to arrive.