As we become more deeply entrenched in what is increasingly—especially for the younger generations—a post-denominational culture, I’m giving more thought to what mainline entities such as my own (United Methodism) can continue to do to meet relevant spiritual and tangible needs.
The recent tragedy in Haiti brought out the best in my denomination (see for examples) and tapped the finest character of so many from other communities of faith, businesses, governments, the non-profit sector and of everyday citizens of numerous countries. It confirmed my long-held belief that The United Methodist Church is as well-equipped as any other organization in the world to respond to human need with speed, resources and love.
But the opportunities that abound in this broken world are far from being limited to large-scale tragedies. Issues of poverty, disease, crime, ignorance, despair and oppression permeate so many cultures across the globe, and faith groups can no longer attempt to address them in a vacuum by simply advocating their own “brand.”
A new season of collaboration can and must unfold for the sake of overall sustainability of every organized non-profit community (and for no small number of for-profits), and it must be ecumenical across denominations of a shared faith; inter-faith among persons who happen to differ a bit in theology; and cross-pollinated among spiritual communities and marketplace constituencies for the purpose of pragmatically tackling shared needs and opportunities..
In my opinion, such multi-faceted collaboration requires a significant shift in mindset for some and a further progression of nascent mindset for others. And this state of mind is one that holds two necessities together in dynamic tension: hunger for God, and compassion for one’s neighbor.
Hunger for God: I’m at a place in life where it no longer matters very much to me how you define the attributes of God or place them into a complex, systematic theology. Your views on the afterlife (or even the “pre-life”) do not concern me a great deal, nor your opinions on baptism or what gender should be in what leadership role or who is more righteous than whom. I am not non-empathetic to these items; but I am looking at people in general with a greater good in mind: Are they hungry to commune with God? Are they seeking to grow in grace, character, and compassion, yearning for a bigger picture that holds it all together and helps to give their lives some congruence?
Every day, I meet such people who possess this burgeoning hunger. I can connect with them. I can collaborate with them. They don’t have to embrace my “brand,” see things exactly my way, or even promise to attend my church or contribute money to its coffers. I see God at work in their hearts, and that is enough for me. I’m ready to partner with them to address real and felt needs, wherever they might be found.
Compassion for One’s Neighbor: This second over-arching attribute builds strongly upon the God hunger. A person earnestly seeking God will naturally begin to see his or her neighbor differently. The neighbor could be in the actual house next door, or in an adjacent cubicle, nearby on the soccer field, on a Twitter feed or displayed on a flat screen featuring video footage shot halfway across the world. The particulars really aren’t all that important; again, the mindset is key: Do I look at someone with eyes of compassion or eyes of judgment? Do I see the spoken or unspoken God-hunger in someone, or am I caught up in evaluating how this person doesn’t measure up to my standards for this-or-that reason?
I can collaborate with persons of any sincere, peaceful faith group who have a heart for any neighbor. I can do the same thing with an executive from the marketplace, a scholar from the academy, a mid-level civil servant, or a Republican or Democrat or Libertarian.
Whatever our faith group—or lack thereof—happens to be, whatever banners under which our business interests or  political party affiliations happen to fall, our global, digital village must no longer be a house divided against itself. An innumerable arsenal of persons hungry for God and compassionate for their neighbors is unstoppable, when it comes to addressing the conditions that plague the human race today.
The perils of not collaborating are great, but the joys of partnering across the nexus of what unites us are breathtaking.