great teams don’t just happen – part 1

A team is a group of people committed to a common purpose who choose to cooperate in order to achieve exceptional results. Pat MacMillan

When I think of teams I have been a part of, there are several pictures that come to
mind, but none as sweet as the first–four of us singing “Rejoice the Lord is King!” in
four part harmony in the car on the way home from campus.

Two months after I arrived for my first assignment, my director and his wife left our organization. The following three months were so full of questions! Each of us who remained considered what the Lord wanted for and from us. Our task was so big, and we knew so little about what needed to be done. We only knew we needed a director and a vision. And we were praying for both!

Well, God supplied the vision before He supplied the director, and when the director came, we were ready for him. The resulting team became so close-knit in our passion for that campus, that city, that we would do whatever God showed us. The hymn, “Rejoice, the Lord is King!” became a sort of theme song; singing it together was a symbol of our unity and commitment. No matter what the obstacles, we would trust the Lord and step out in faith together. We were committed to the same vision and committed to each other.


Teams are necessary when the work required–whether in complexity or scope–is
beyond what one person can accomplish. Teams can yield powerful results when
people commit to the same goal.

The formation of teams to accomplish a task is a move  from working independently to interdependence. What “we” are able to accomplish together becomes more important than what “I” accomplish by myself. A leader or an organization recognizes the need to work together in light of a great vision and mission. Certainly, when we think about “movements everywhere” and helping to fulfill the Great Commission, the need for teams and partnerships is obvious.

The practical necessity of teams is so clear; yet the development of the attitudes that
support great teamwork is challenging. Look at these few Scriptures:

Ephesians 4 (NLT) says: “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. lways be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one
baptism…However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of
Christ…we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like
Christ, who is the head of His body, the church. As each part does its own special work,
it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of

In Philippians 2: 3-4, we read, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but
in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only
to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Peter tells us in I Peter 2:17, “Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.”

These are the attitudes that form the basis for cooperation toward a common purpose.
Dr. Sue Jones, in her book Developing A Learning Culture, reinforces these thoughts by
identifying three attitudes in leaders that promote learning, leadership and teamwork:
humility (absence of arrogance) about one’s own knowledge and skills, respect for
others and their knowledge and skills, and trust in others and their abilities.

These three attitudes are the basis for the ability to
 encourage and listen to others’ views, ideas and suggestions,
 be open with others,
 take open feedback and criticism,
 avoid personally judging others and be tolerant of differing and opposing views,
 avoid personally judging others and be tolerant of others’ mistakes.

Why are these attitudes so challenging?

On most teams I’ve been a part of, there has been someone with whom I have a philosophical disagreement or some kind of quirky personality thing I wish were different.

The question is–how big a deal will I let those things become?

As soon as I acknowledge that I don’t know everything or even enough about how to
move forward, I’m ready to hear others’ ideas about it. When I treat others with honor
and respect, there is the possibility of going forward together because there is space for
us to explore our opinions. When I listen to others’ ideas with interest, I respect what
they bring to the table. If I will look out for my teammates the way I would look out for
myself, we have the possibility of owning and achieving our goals together.

The opposite attitudes (ride, lack of trust, disrespect) tend to create problems when people work together. “I” becomes more important than “we.” Pride or arrogance says. “I know what I’m talking about and you can’t tell me anything I don’t know.” When you say it out loud like that, it sounds silly. Yet that is what happens when we dismiss others’ ideas or cautions without thought or when we are defensive to feedback. If I come to the table with a self-righteous attitude and judge others’ ideas or behavior, cooperation is almost impossible.

We get stuck in our attitudes and cannot move toward each other when we’re holding on
to our positions, whether in anger, judgment or pride. These internal conflicts frequently become the battle line, instead of the real battle together toward our common mission. The more time and energy we invest in fighting these battles with each other, the less time and energy we have to invest in our calling from God. Our collective energy is diffused and less powerful. The evil one’s strategy to steal, kill and destroy is working.

So what can you do to preserve the unity of the Spirit as a team leader or as a team member?

1. Be filled with the Spirit. “You can bear no fruit apart from Me.”
2. Lead by example. Model the behavior that you want to see. How do you want
to model humility, patience, respect, forbearance and love? Repent from behavior
that is destructive to the team and trust God for new attitudes and actions.
3. Help the team form guidelines for how they want to behave with each
other (norms).
4. Reinforce the norms when people slip up. If someone on the team shares a
struggle and another team member responds harshly or unkindly, what will you
5. Don’t let gossip or conflict become a problem.
6. Focus the team on God and the mission to which He calls us as a higher aim
than simply getting our way.

We are both saints and sinners. Each of us has immature parts of our character that
need to be grown up. Those immature parts will show up on a team. Each of us has
strengths that are necessary both in relationships and in our task; yet, none of us is
sufficient. Great teams choose to cooperate because they see the wisdom and
fruitfulness of working together. Great team members will commit to their common
mission over their individual preferences.

Whether your team sings together or not, the key issue is that you become a team leader
or team member who will choose to cooperate in the power of the Holy Spirit for the
advancement of the gospel and for the glory of God. We can do no less in light of God’s
calling to us.

So, what is your favorite team experience?  What is God teaching you about effective team

This entry was posted in Following Jesus, teams and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to great teams don’t just happen – part 1

  1. Steve Morgan says:

    One team in Xalapa was a healing place-we had a good core and when others came in to the team, they got better. We had fun together and worked hard…and saw God do amazing things in the ministry. Our current team has a lot of empathy since many have gone through or are going through similar things with parents. We are also like the metaphor of the geese-when someone is leading, the others follow and “honk”; when another leads, we all follow behind and honk for them. Great shared leadership!

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