by Pastor Mark Simpson
In looking at our Church's Ministry Team, our Local Area Pastors' Prayer Teams, Missionary Teams, and others, Acts 15:6-22 shows how at the Council in Jerusalem, five different men gave their opinions and testimony, and it was through these different voices that a final conclusion was reached and summarized. Even then, the decision was sent by a group of four to administer and communicate, and the Word says that this team brought rejoicing and encouragement to the Gentile churches. (Acts 15:31) We can see, through both Testaments; a clear and abundant series of references to team spirit in all areas of Church planting, growth and development, and Body life and ministry. What major job of ministry did God leave to an individual? Scripture is pretty silent about this.
What are some things that teams need to be successful? Or . . .
Carrying the flame without burning each other.
These principles are the "motor". You can have a new transmission a great governmental structure set up -- but without a motor there is nothing to drive it, at any speed. Good teams don't become great, except by intentional planning and appropriate spiritual preparation. "Preparation equals effectiveness." (Costa Deir)
"No one likes the thought of being led by a dictator, and that is not what the Bible teaches. But neither do the Scriptures support the democratic model for church government. The pattern we see is one of "consultative leadership", where maximum room is given for discussion, dialogue, prayer and input, but the final decision rests with the leadership." (Pastor Barney Coombs)
1. First, effective team spirit is characterized by clear purpose. Even the most effective servants will languish if they wonder why their team actually exists. Write down your vision and mission and purpose, frame it, summarize it in a sentence if possible, talk about it, remind all of it in hard times, and make sure that new team members understand it before they sign on.
2. All teams will have a "set person", a leader. Church leadership structures that teach team leadership without a leader are going to produce foundering organizations. This "set person" is vocalizing a passion that rings clear in the ears of all around him/her. This is someone who usually can't wait to get up in the morning to take the next step towards their God-given purpose. This attitude is confident, faith-filled, and infectious, producing a chain reaction. If you don't have that, back off! Let someone else be the spokesperson, hopefully this person we just described. Others are simply "unlicensed drivers" of your endeavor.
3. "The officers shall speak further to the people, and they shall say, `Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house so that he might not make his brothers' hearts melt like his heart.'" (Deut. 20:8)
Don't join a team unless you are willing to bring your conversation and confession into order; anxiety, worry, defeatism and negativism can affect others like a spreading cancer. We all face these things; this doesn't mean they can't be brought under control. Both the hero and coward face fear; the difference is in how they deal with it when, not if, it comes.
4. "For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike." (I Sam.30:24) A team must learn that all have a part to play, and all will share in the reward regardless of their different tasks during the team's ministry. Members of missionary teams should stress this to their financial and prayer supporters. So thank your team members---often! Paul often commended his own. Team leaders must be sensitive to building this philosophy into the attitude and atmosphere of the team. What is the cry of the immature? "Throw me the ball!" all the time.
5. "He said, `If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the sons of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will help you.'" (I Chron. 19:12) If during a team you find that you are too limited or weak to fulfill what is required, don't hesitate to report this to those responsible and humbly request help.
Example: It's always better to get another watchman than to have a tired watchman fall asleep and let the enemy in, or one who does not have the talent. If you can't use a hammer without busting every finger, say so! Our limitations simply result in further delegation being carried out; they are not a sign of defeat or failure.
6. "When they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. But we will not boast beyond our measure." (II Cor. 10:12-13)
This is simple enough; avoid comparisons regarding spirituality or gifts with fellow team members. Also don't boast of gifts, or exaggerate regarding gifts you don't have; be content with what Jesus has graced you with and realize that you are His choice for this assignment. His smile should be enough. The building of hierarchies with titles abounds today, but we are primarily servants serving one another, not lords of His manor.
7. "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." Phil. 2:3-4 Enough said there; no further commentary required.
8. Team Ministry is usually incompatible with the autocratic leader. Granted, God does give an individual the responsibility of moderating or "quarterbacking" a team. He appoints, throughout history, an individual as the responsible "set man" or "elder among elders" for each institution. James, Barnabus, Timothy, Archippus and others are all mentioned in the church in this context.
However, if you look through church and missions history, you will encounter many who, due to their own autocratic style, chose to travel and work alone. The sad part about this decision-making process is that these people, so gifted and wealthy in the Word, usually failed to raise up successors. After death or resignation, most of their works collapsed or became hopelessly divided. God calls us to become fathers (I Cor. 4:15) and as fathers, we must ask, "Where are the children?" In Texas they use the term "Big Hat--No Cattle."
Paul called Timothy and Titus his true "sons" in the Lord. Where are ours? Also read II Cor. 1:18-24 and see how often you see the words "our", "we" and "us." The epistles are filled with such references to teams ministering together, and the writer of 12 or 13 of them had a tremendous attitude toward his team members. He called them:
Fellow laborers Phil. 4:3
Fellow servants Col. 1:7, 4:7
Fellow helpers II Cor. 8:23 Point to consider: the church emerged out of the
Fellow soldiers Phil. 2:25 Old Testament family. The manager at home will
Yoke fellows Phil. 4:3 mobilize all to server. So must we.
Fellow workers Col. 4:11
If you were called to work with Paul, you were most likely honored and enthusiastic, given his charitable, great-hearted attitude towards his team.
Also remember that the spirit of rulership prevalent in the world is not to characterize the Church. (Matt. 20:25-26) The word "rule" (Gr. Proistemi or proestotes, used also for "who ARE OVER you in the Lord", I Thess. 5:12) means to stand before, lead into and show how. It speaks of serving and being an example rather than driving and coercing. Another similar term, "hegoumenown", is used in Hebrews 13:7 and refers to those martyrs in Hebrews 11 who went before and led us by their example, and death.
The spirit of New Testament ruling is the laying down of our life for our friends, the sheep that Jesus died to redeem. This conflicts with the autocratic style, and much more that is taught today by humanistic, corporate-type leadership and team trainers. Don't ever believe the lie that principles of leadership are the same in the corporation as they are in the church. As one writer puts it, Jesus was the Good Shepherd, not the Good Cowboy. Leadership is very different in the Kingdom: distinction is rooted in different spheres of service. We then morally and spiritually persuade through the resources of Word, Holy Spirit, prayer and a godly example, not humanistic/charismatic personality types.
The Autocratic versus Christocratic model for team leadership. (source unknown)
The Autocratic Personality The Christocratic Personality
Gives orders without asking questions - Asks questions, seeks to truly
hear, suggests alternatives
Makes demands, dishes out directives, lays Respects freedom and dignity of
down the law, defensive if challenged others can affirm the truth clearly
and concretely but nondefensive
Requires compliance regardless of consensus, Values willing cooperation, works
open agreement and understanding for consent or agreement
Pushes and manipulates, one-man rule, in over- Leads, attracts, persuades under position
personal relationships in side-by- side identification
Says "you do, you must do, you ought to have Says, "come, let's do, we might done, you'd better do”
have done "
Depends on his own external authority and title Depends on his internal integrity to to motivate others
Generates friction, resistance, and resentment Generates acceptance, consensus, cooperation and
initiates reconciliation when necessary
Separates and isolates people, his organization is Unites and helps persons relate to often a "revolving door" of the alienated.
One more point could be added here, made by Dick Iverson: "In examining the concept of team ministry, you may discover that your gift and ability in the ministry is not best fulfilled as the senior elder. In this change you may be taunted by the idea that you are "stepping down" or being "demoted." This is not the case. The ministry is not a pyramid system, or a sales ladder, or an executive scramble to be number one. Being on a team is not God's "second best" but it is God's greatest design. Position does not equal value. The role that God has laid out for you is the best thing that could ever happen to you and is going to bring you the greatest joy in this life." (Rev. Dick Iverson, "Team Ministry") Imagine the impact on churches and ministries worldwide if there was such a shifting, prompted by brokenness, that realigned us all to this way of thinking. It would be refreshing!
"As the glory of man is the woman, and the glory of Christ is His bride the church, so the glory of the senior elder is his team." (anon.)
9. As regards our oral communication and teaching, team spirit also involves moving from "lecture" to "interactive" in our communication as team leaders.
It goes like this; Tell me - - - I'll forget.
Show me - - - I might remember.
Involve me - - - I'll eventually understand. (some quicker than others!)
This is especially true within the masculine context of learning. If you just endure the younger and the newer, tuning them out while waiting for your chance to speak and keep everybody on your track, forget about team ministry. Those around will see that your heart is not in it. Good team leaders should hone their listening and sensitivity skills, even when it appears that some more immature team members might be talking irresponsibly. This has been a real weakness in my own life, but I have rejoiced to discover that listening skills can be learned. Then, the team must communicate as a team. It does little good to have a team that doesn't communicate like one. "And when they (the whole ministry team) were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done through them." (Acts 14:27)
"The concept of the body functioning in concert requires the consideration of all members, each working with common agreement for the good of all." (Stanley Ellisen)
10. Team members are selected, not democratically elected. Show me a church structure full of "elected" people and I'll show you a bunch of folks that are often in the wrong place for the wrong reasons with the wrong spirit. Throughout Scripture the pattern is so clear. Moses selected Joshua. Samuel was directed to choose David. Elijah told Elisha to follow him, passing over all those in the three current Schools of the Prophets of that day. Barnabus chose Paul and Paul chose Timothy. Even of Jesus it was said, "He summoned those whom He Himself wanted . . . and He appointed twelve." (Mark 3:13-15) In the light of this, you may need to do what I and many others have had to do some time ago—move on to a place where true team ministry could be built and the election-bound structure is history.
11. In the same vein, those chosen must know that they are being joined in the Spirit to both the leader and the other team members. The New Testament shows us that the workers are linked by functioning "joints", or covenantal working relationships. Today's "church-hopping" and "preacher swapping" are practices so foreign to the Bible way. Do you want to select someone who has a history of broken relationships? Someone who has left churches and relationships without so much as a phone call to the pastor or leader? Be very careful here! "I like the other workers but I'm not sure about the pastor." "The leader is a good man but I don't know about this team I'm with; I think I'll just stay close to the leader." Both of these attitudes will produce harmful results. "Whoever is not with me, is against me." (Matt. 12:30)
12. Team members must be of kindred spirit, having the same "family genes." This is also very important. Paul spoke of team member Timothy in this way (I Cor 4:17, Phil. 2:20). We all have many relationships in the Body that we love and maintain, yet perhaps only a few that we flow together with as a team. It doesn't mean that one team or ministry is better than another, but simply that we share so many joint convictions and have the same "family sense" to be together. This one is hard to explain because there is no superiority in one ministry team. However, there is a sense of agreement in the Spirit. Can you see how foolish we are to send people right out of Bible School and seminary into a church or ministry to lead without having this sense of kindred spirit established first? It's no wonder so much "swapping" goes on.
13. Look for young people to join the team! David, Samuel, Josiah, Joash, Jeremiah, David Brainerd, Evan Roberts and Robert Murray McCheyne are all examples of youth with tremendous dedication and accuracy in their judgments. Never overlook what they can be used to do!
14. No shadows or question marks: freely divulge weaknesses and previous struggles with team members. Leave no question, by telling them even more than they wanted to hear. This disarms the accuser's ability to work discord within the ranks, and builds the trust which can be absolutely needed in times of crisis.
15. Each member of the ministry team should be delivered from self-interest and self-seeking. If someone's main reason for serving with us is to find a place for their own ministry, eventually we will all come to see how unwise it was to have them aboard. It doesn't matter how talented they are. Giving in here (which often occurs with music and worship teams) because of a person's talent has been a prominent mistake in team efforts for a long time. A spirit of competition rather than sacrifice begins to invade the team; this is only one of the problems experienced. "Timothy served with me like a child serving his father." (Phil. 2:21-22) Look for people like that. "You discern (the team member's) compassion for the sheep by their self-sacrifice." (Dick Iverson)
16. Make room for the zealous, aggressive risk-takers! There is so much passivity and mediocrity in the Lord's work today; folks like this will shake all that stuff right out of the team. The one who buried his talent in order to "play it safe" was rebuked by the Lord. Team members have to show initiative, the ability to act on their own without having to ask three people for their advice before doing anything. They have to be willing to go forth without having to have all the details of the journey ahead of time. At the same time they must be disciplined people, who don't have to be constantly reminded about tardiness, cleaning up their living quarters, time in the Word, etc. These determined ones actually seem to play and work harder as the "game" progresses.
17. Proverbs 12:1 tells us that anyone who cannot take correction is stupid. Don't open the team to stupid people like this. Nothing is more wearying for a leader than to repeatedly have to adjust the words, attitudes and behaviors of a team member while all you get in return is self-defense, super-spiritual justification, blame-shifting, turning the whole conversation back on you, or "having to have the last word." About that time, all you want to do is back out and pray for the team effort to end soon so that such a one can depart. I go farther with my short-term missionary team leaders; I give them the authority to put such a one, after a second warning, on the next plane or bus home.
Along with this order comes the promise that I will automatically take the leader's side until we can all sit down firsthand and sort things out.
"Whoever loves discipline, loves knowledge." "Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you." (Prov. 12:1A, 9:8) These are the kind of people I want with me.
18. Team members must endure, even be ready and prepared to endure, hardship. There will be late airplanes, hours of waiting, days without a shower, long periods on a trip without food or drink, followed by cold or bad food with no ten-page menu, extreme heat and humidity and cold and wind, bedbugs and creepy-crawlies that give itchy red spots, and a whole host of other discomforts. Take those along who are already prepared to "deal with it!" I have preached many times while ill, in pain, without clean clothes, and exhausted. I have said many times on teams, jokingly, "Now, this was not in the brochure." Get the team ready by reading II Cor. 11:23-30 to them, then saying, "Chances are the ministry effort may go a little bit easier than this." Short-term team members will be home soon; we are surrounded, on the other hand, by people who endure the above, and more, all the time! This principle may indeed be the key to the rest, because if we can't get a minister to go with us to Africa or Mexico for a week or two and suffer a little while pouring out his heart to needy national ministers, his "ministry team building" here in suburban splendor may be easy but will never go deep.
"A little suffering for Jesus never did anyone any harm." (Barney Coombs)
This is the theme of all successful team efforts. We can see how the New Testament Church expanded so rapidly and successfully, with a proper understanding of team spirit being so important in church growth and multiplication. This is because the ministry team is really a model for all the rest as to how their church or ministry should look. We can't lead where we haven't gone.
It would be good for every Christian to study the "one another" commands of the New Testament to get further clues as to what this model should show, as well as examining the attributes of the Church at Antioch as the emerging church in its own day, out of the biases, limited vision and goals of the Jerusalem Assembly. Antioch is where they were first called "Christians." I believe we are headed back this way: obviously with the leaders first walking in "Team Spirit."
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