In years gone by, I’ve generally been the first person to jump into a team building game. You know the kind, ”We need all 15 of you to get from this side of the room to the other, you can’t touch the floor, you have use of only three drinking straws and a cup, GO!”
I’d give it a few seconds to let others start suggesting ideas, and in the silence that generally follows while the thinkers are thinking, I’d begin to giving orders as to how we might get the task done. I’d rarely have an endpoint in sight – I just needed to get this team rolling!
My interpretation of being a team player was to lead from the front, take action, motivate and encourage. You might think this is good, but I knew that to get my idea as the preferred one, I’d have to cajole, manipulate and ultimately try and control the situation. Here’s the thing though: Whenever you start to manage people, use clever arguments to get your way, or split hairs with the words people use, you’re on a path that leads to somewhere that isn’t wholly honest and in no way righteous or good – no matter how jovial and team-spirited you might appear.
The organisers of such team building days, generally just saw the outcome and saw that it was good. Mission accomplished, the team successfully made it across the imaginary, shark-infested waters. In most companies, the result is what’s important; there’s still a dog-eat-dog competitive spirit in a lot of businesses. We see this in shows like ‘The Apprentice’, albeit this is edited at times to show the worst of people, but you know … no smoke without fire. The attitude to use, abuse and undermine others to help oneself scramble to the ‘top’ is the accepted modus operandi!
Now, despite all that I have written here, I probably wasn’t as bad as all that. I did genuinely try to leave space for others to speak and share ideas, but if they didn’t line up with mine, even roughly, I’d use carefully considered words, and play on emotions to get something near to my way.
In my early work life I was mostly viewed as a good ‘team player’ – as far as my bosses at the time were concerned, I was in fact regarded as a natural leader of teams. But the way I went about trying to work out what the bosses wanted and manipulate the ‘game’ to that end wasn’t righteous, and indeed not based on the love of Christ. But back then I didn’t know Jesus, and I thought, on the whole, I was a good person.
I think that maybe a lot of us struggle to understand what it means to work as a team, possibly even in the local church, where we operate primarily as a team full of volunteers. On the surface, we might play well together, but unless we have the love of Christ flowing through to our actions and affecting our decision making, we too can fall prey to looking good but have no authenticity and genuine care for how the team is doing as a whole.
As Christians, when we have the love of Christ flowing through us our team is one where everyone cares about the other, and we work for the common cause of our united mission – to enlarge the Church, extend God’s Kingdom rule over creation and see people come to Christ, free at last from worry and burden.
The pioneers of the early church were people, men in fact, with weaknesses and shortcomings. It’s fascinating that Jesus picked those that most people would never have considered for the important role of founding or starting the early church.
The fact is that we’re all on a journey of change. But the fact that we still have some character flaws and weaknesses doesn’t mean we are doomed to failure. We can do great things for God, we can get to where God is taking us as long as we genuinely desire to become more like Jesus.
How did Jesus handle the weaknesses or imperfections of His team members? Firstly, He didn’t wait until they were perfect before He chose them or started using them. Yes, it says in Matthew 5:48, that Jesus tells us we are perfect, it also says that we are TO BE perfect like our Father in Heaven – which in my mind suggest two things: Firstly, this is how Jesus is choosing to see us, choosing to deal with us in this context. But secondly, this is not as we are now, but as we are going to be, as we are becoming. In other words, if we use the Greek word instead: teleios, we use a word that also means maturity, rounded, whole, to be complete as God is. God does not say one thing and thinks another; God does not pretend compassion while really not caring at all. God is sincere, whole, and wholehearted – and we should be too.
Each of us has a seed in us, a potential, skill, gift, experience that can enlarge the Church and do our part in advancing the Kingdom of God. But if we drawback, hide our gift, or bury our gift we actually limit the enlargement the Church can experience.
Growth comes when each of us plays our role, gives our very best, gives our full support. Talents are increased when they were put to use (have a read of Matthew chapter 25 from verse 14 to see what I mean). The church can’t really grow and enlarge to its fullest capacity if we’re holding back and not utilising what God has put in us.
Our value is shown in how we work well together as a team, in how we help to build up the Church so that it looks and acts more like Jesus!
*This blog post is based on part #2 of a sermon series – ‘Something for Nothing?’ delivered by me at Freedom Church in May 2018. You can view this sermon here: