Ubuntu: Cooperative Community
A devotional writer from South Africa said there’s a Zulu word Ubuntu, which means “I am because we are.” He explained it by saying, “I am enabled and empowered, made fully human, because I am part of a family, a tribe, and a community.”1 He was reflecting on the disciples’ cooperative business of fishing with more than one boat, and how Peter had to call on his co-workers in the other boat to help him haul in the huge catch of fish (Luke 5:1-7).
Christians work best in community today, too. Growing Generous Souls talks about both dimensions of ministry: koinonia (Communion community) and diakonia (missional service). Both dimensions are most fruitful when we fellowship and reach out with others instead of just on our own.
For example, Covenant Community Church2 in Louisville, Kentucky, shared a building for six years with another congregation, but found the financial cost and property tended to separate them from the community. So they turned their facility into a community building. Every quarter they invite churches in the region to worship together in the public space. That’s diakonia. At the same time, they experience collaborative koinonia, drawing on multiple cultures from around the world for their liturgy and music styles.
Cooperative partnerships are most fruitful for renewed mission work, as well. For example, Africa University provides quality higher education and produces leaders for 31 nations on the African continent. Now, 27 years after its establishment by the United Methodist Church, it has partnered with government agencies, corporations, and non-profit organizations. “A big selling point for everyone who gets into a relationship with Africa University is the potential impact to a continent,” said AU’s Director of Development, James Salley.3 “It gives you the possibility of being involved in change leadership across borders and across Africa.”
1 – Roland Rink, “We Are Not Alone; God Is with Us,” Upper Room Disciplines 2019, p. 58.
3 – The Acacia, Africa University bulletin, Nov.-Dec. 2016.