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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Beyond All Limits: Synergy in Ministry

By James O. Davis and Bill Bright
June 3, 2012

The church of the 21st century, the church that ministers beyond the limits, is a church that is synergistic. What do we mean by synergistic? Synergy is a business term that in recent years has become popular in management and leadership circles. The Oxford English Dictionary defines synergy as “joint working, cooperation … that results in increased effectiveness, achievement, etc., produced as a result of combined action or cooperation.” The principles of synergy have been in existence from early in history. For centuries, people have worked together to accomplish great tasks that they could not do on their own. The pyramids and the Great Wall of China were not built by one individual, but by many people working together. It took the combined effort of everyone involved to achieve the goal. It took synergy.

Synergistic churches are dynamic, living bodies of believers. They work cohesively together to achieve the goals that Christ lays before them, just like various parts of the human body work together to carry out daily activities. Every person in the church — from top to bottom — works together to help fulfill the Great Commission. People must first work in synergy with God, their Creator, and then with each other. God provides the direction and guidance while the team of believers serves as the resources and manpower God uses. He uses us as we make ourselves available to Him.   

Synergy provides an important energy that helps to propel the ministry of the local church. Jesus prayed in John 17:21, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee” (KJV). Unity is the nature of the Church. It is a spiritual benefit of a believer’s relationship to Christ, the Head. This is why Paul encourages us to preserve the unity of the Spirit, not to create or manufacture it (Ephesians 4:3).

Synergy is closely related to unity. Christ’s desire for His disciples was not only that they would be one in the Holy Spirit, but also that they would achieve more together than they could accomplish alone. Synergy is this dynamic that occurs among a local body of believers who are dedicated to walking together in the unity of Christ. A synergistic church is one that is committed to practical implementation of Christ’s prayer in John 17:21, and, as a consequence of that commitment, enjoys the fruit of multiplied effectiveness.

The synergistic church advances the kingdom of God with greater effectiveness because it utilizes every member and all its resources to the maximum potential. It is a church focused on bringing people together with Christ and with each other. Synergy is formed and strengthened through relationships. The priority of synergistic churches is to disciple believers and help them develop a committed, growing relationship with Jesus Christ, and then to form strong relationships with other believers. This exemplifies the community of faith Jesus Christ desires. When we are a part of a community that values one another, the lost are attracted to Christ’s kingdom. Everybody is a somebody in the body of Christ.


People-centered, not program-driven

Relationships require one key ingredient — people. The church of the 21st century is not only made up of people; it is focused on people. Synergy requires the cultivation of relationships that produce trust and accountability. This involves more than small-group meetings or clever programs. It requires a continual emphasis on encouraging people to connect with God and each other. A synergistic church is people-centered because it is Christ-centered. Jesus came to save people and build strong relationships while He was on earth. We must develop our programs based on the needs of people. The church exists for the purpose of ministering to people.

In the past, churches have been tempted to emphasize events and programs more than people. A successful church may have a strong bus ministry, Vacation Bible Schools, day care, youth activities or whatever the popular program of the day might be. This is not to devalue the importance of quality programs and events, for they are necessary parts of the local church. If we are not careful, however, the program becomes more important than the people coming to the program. Programs are justifiable only as long as they meet the needs of the people who attend them. As members of the body of Christ, we must make the people of the church one of our top priorities. Christ cared enough for people that He died on the cross for our sins. We should care enough about people to introduce them to our Savior and help them grow in Him.

The new generation of Gen Xers and Millennials do not appreciate a program-centered church. They are looking for authentic, experiential faith that meets them where they are and allows them to be a part of a greater spiritual picture. They need a place to connect and belong so they can receive from God and others. This is where the synergistic church can meet the needs of a new generation. Synergistic churches do not just have events or programs for the program’s sake. They structure what they are doing to meet people’s needs and fulfill their God-given mission. They understand that people are important to God; therefore, people must be important to the church.


Interdependence versus independence

Synergy is achieved through the Holy Spirit, who enables us to work interdependently with each other. To truly achieve synergy, the leadership and members of the church must live their lives under the principle of interdependence. It is important to understand the impact of this concept on the “beyond all limits” church. To achieve interdependent synergy, openness and authenticity are required. Unbiblical power structures and struggles must be left behind, and biblical paradigms of teamwork and trust must be embraced. Leadership and authority are shared with the team, empowering every part of the church to be active in the mission of the church. The synergistic church emphasizes interdependence, not religious hierarchy.

This synergistic approach utilizes the God-given gifts of each member of the church. This is true within the local church as well as in the Church universal. Synergistic churches carry the interdependence from their own church to the community. The spirit of competition gives way to the spirit of cooperation as the body of Christ works together to reach its community, providing vital assistance to the needy and leadership to the city.

The days of territorialism and “sheep stealing” are long gone. The independent spirit of Christian mavericks creates Christian hermits in a world where networking has become vitally important. What is most important is that people are being transformed by Christ.

From Beyond All Limits: The Synergistic Church for a Planet in Crisis by Bill Bright and James O. Davis (Orlando, Fla.: NewLife Publications, 2002). Excerpted with permission.


JAMES O. DAVIS is founder and president of Cutting Edge International. The late BILL BRIGHT was founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. The two were co-founders of Billion Soul Network.

Email your comments to pe@ag.org.