The Puzzle of Teams
Recently, I was in a meeting with a handful of other ministries from Western New York who all have a divine invitation to Sierra Leone. This group is known as the Sierra Leone Alliance. One of the privileges I enjoy, based upon the mercy of God, is that I am tasked with the facilitation of this group. We have a doctor, a lawyer, pastors, a professor, a president, directors, activists and other leaders who are all Christ-followers. They make for an eclectic and interesting mix that only God could orchestrate with a common bond and focus. So, it is my task to help create, foster and further our collective energy to make a difference in one of the poorest and neediest places on the planet. As I reflected on how to do just that, prior to this most recent meeting, I was led to a few places in Scripture that point to how we as God's redeemed, are to interact such that God is honored and His Spirit can move in and through His people to produce something unique. So, the purpose of this blog is to share some of these things in hopes that they will be helpful to you in your endeavors.
It seems to me that it is far easier to determine what a group of people should be doing (Mission) and even go beyond that to articulate what that should produce in the near future (Vision), than it is to do the hard work of actually making it happen in a way that is consistent with who those people wish and claim to be. So, as Christians how should a team of diverse peers interact with one another given how they accomplish something is as important as what they accomplish? This was the question in my mind. Sure, we all understand the Golden Rule and the value of working together, but are there specific principles we can apply that will serve as guideposts, reminders and expectations for us? Are there practices that help us to complete the relational puzzle within a group of passionate people trying to do something? I believe so.
The Apostle Paul, in writing to believers in two different cities echoes the same basic approach as it relates to how Christ-followers are to interact with one another.
- To the church at Philippi he writes: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2: 3-4 NIV).
- To the church at Corinth he writes: “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24 NIV).
So, it is clear in these two passages that just as the church in Philippi and Corinth were to seek something, we as part of the Church are to do the same. Simply stated, we are to seek the good of others. This should be our motivation, our priority, and how we engage with others. We should seek their good, their best interests, and their benefit. This should be a proactive decision on our part, not just a reactive gesture when a need is communicated. We should seek the good of others. Imagine being in an environment where that is what you were doing and others were doing the same to and for you. I think that is how God intends it to be when His people gather and work together for His purposes and His ultimate glory.
Another place in Scripture that offers some insight into how people can add value to one another is found in Proverbs. In fact, there are more than a handful of verses found in proverbs that speak to this. The following verses are some that came to mind:
- “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure” (Proverbs 11:14 NIV).
- “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22 NIV).
- “[F]or waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers” (Proverbs 24:6 NIV).
- “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but counselors of peace have joy” (Proverbs 12:20 NASB).
So, we see clearly from these passages, that there is great value in having advisors or counselors in our midst as we make plans and determine what it is that God would have us do. This is wise. Godly counsel has tremendous value in any decision-making process and therefore it should be cherished, desired and promoted in any team environment. Not only should counsel be sought as it relates to teams but it also should be offered as well. Giving godly counsel is as important as seeking it. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to offer one's opinion, even a well-informed one, but it is an entirely different thing to offer godly counsel for a particular situation. So, there is a dynamic of reciprocity in this regard that is healthy and if done under the auspices of the good of others, is of immense value. Lastly, Proverbs 12:20 states that counselors of Shalom (peace that brings prosperity and health to all) will rejoice when others prosper. There will be joy when the good of others comes to be. This speaks to a very healthy, supportive and mutually encouraging ethos, which I think each of us would like to experience when we get together with others to accomplish something.
These passages while certainly not intending to be an exhaustive study on the subject of working together do give us some insight at what it could be. So, in summary I believe there are four principles that rise from the previously mentioned Scriptures in regards to how people should work together in that each person should:
* Seek the good of others.
* Seek godly counsel.
* Give godly counsel.
* Rejoice with the success of others.
These will guide how the Sierra Leone Alliance will work with one another and I am excited at how God will bear even more fruit among us in the future. I am incredibly thankful for those in the Alliance and their unanimous affirmation to these principles, which in many ways are not new, but now will be more visible in how we work together. In closing, I believe that these four principles will help solve the puzzle as it were relating to diverse people coming together to achieve much more than either on their own could ever dream.