22. What kind of team?

A well known acronym for team is “Together everyone achieves more”. Well not necessarily. Whether the team achieves more, depends on a lot of factors. What kind of team is it, what style of leadership is being used, what kind of task is the team working on, what skills are being called for, etc? We are in a season where team is more than a value, it’s the ‘in thing’, it’s in vogue. You not only have a team, you have a team leadership, team building, team strategy, team profile and team you-name-it. The most important thing seems to be that you are called ‘team,’ whether it’s a functioning team or not.

How many teams are you on? For me personally, my first priority team is with my wife – the marriage team. Depending on the context, she leads or I lead the team. We know one another’s strengths pretty well and so go with the flow and make room for one another. Here in Alhaurin de la torre, I have a local team for the retreat centre, then a regional team for western Europe, a core team of 4 as an executive from the regional team, a field team with the other European regional leaders, a church leadership team in our local town, an LDC school team and on and on it goes. Perhaps someone will start a new competition for facebook – how many teams are you on?

The model team. Where did all this team stuff start? Yes you guessed it, in the beginning was God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All three have one essence, holding the same values, the same qualities, the same skills and knowledge and the same vision and desire. Our God is one being, yet three personalities. Three in one – a mystery. They enjoy a unity so close that they merge together. ‘If you know me’, said Jesus, ‘you know the Father.’ The trinity is the ultimate model of team. They are totally committed to one another, ready to serve one another, and submit to each other. To see how this team functioned in the greatest recovery plan of all time, is just amazing.

Each of the trinity had their role. One wasn’t more important than the other, but they understood there were functions to be fulfilled and they were ready to step up to see the plan succeed. Jesus volunteered to be the operational guy who came to earth, and as Philippians tells us, didn’t grasp on to his position but humbled himself to the point of death. Holy Spirit, agreed to be the ‘paraclete’, the encourager, the one who came after Jesus to empower each believer, to reveal truth to each heart and convict of sin and a bunch of other stuff. Father God oversaw the whole plan, kept them in his embrace and gave resources and help at any moment. He took the role of leader for this assignment of the redemption for man. There was a functional submission to one another.

Their roles weren’t statements of value or importance but jobs that needed to be done – they are team.   We pray to the Father in the name of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. And yet if we receive Jesus as our Lord, we also receive the Father. Then, having given our lives to Jesus, we ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. So it seems there is a protocol here. We don’t have to be worried though about getting our words exactly right, as God does understand our hearts and interprets what we are asking. However the godhead are responsible for different things. Holy Spirit gives glory to Jesus, and Jesus gives honour to the Father and the Father tells us to listen to Jesus, and Jesus tells us to wait for the Holy Spirit! Simple isn’t it!

Jesus’ team. Jesus started a team as he began his earthly ministry. It wasn’t a leadership team as they weren’t leading anything yet. It was a discipling, training or internship team. Many were ready and wanting to be on the team but Jesus just chose twelve men. When crisis hits, as it did for Jesus at the crucifixion, you get to know the best members of your team, which included Mary his mother and Mary Magdalene, who stayed to the bitter end! It seems a number of women supported his ministry and travelled with them alongside the 12. Jesus was the pioneer leader of the team and because he knew he wouldn’t be around too long, he identified some potential leaders for succession. He seemed to spend more time with a ‘core team of 3 – Peter, James and John’ that he pulled from the 12. Peter was a real spokesperson and natural leader and perhaps is seen as the leading elder. James and John, named by Jesus “the sons of thunder” obviously had some strong gifts of leadership too.

The Apostles’ team. When Jesus returns to the Father, we see the 12 forming a leadership team. They call themselves elders, and the issues of the emerging church are part of their job description. When a dispute occurs among the Hellenistic Jews, the apostles delegate responsibility and authority to a new team called deacons. They were initially involved in a ministry of practical help but obviously they end up doing much more and developing as spiritual leaders with signs and wonders following their actions. Who do the Pharisees target when they want to put pressure on the church? Stephen – perhaps he had become a leading elder of his team? When there is interest in the gentiles, God gives Cornelius a dream and he asks for Peter to come and make a visit. When a question arises from Ephesus, Peter and John are sent away to sort it out. There is obviously an executive that responds to new situations.

Obviously more are added to the 12 because when Antioch needs help in the emerging church, they send the apostle Barnabas. Barnabas forms a team of teachers, prophets and pastors and brings in Saul who had received an amazing calling to the Gentiles from Jesus, on the road to Damascus. Where does Paul go when he has questions and wants to check out his ministry philosophy? Back to Peter and the elders. When the authorities want to challenge the local church in Jerusalem they arrest James. Hey wait a minute, why not Peter? Maybe he is away on business? No it seems that the local leading elder is James. He is also the presiding elder in the Acts 15 assembly when they discuss the move of God among the Gentiles and what guidelines they are to pass on.

So there are lots of teams. They seem to be modelled on the trinity. They are not big on position, status and power but come together to seek the Lord and study the word of God and for agreement in major decisions. They multiply themselves out geographically and there is a functional submission to one another. Paul and Barnabas maintain a network of relationships in the early church development through building their team and through making missionary journeys to oversee, encourage, appoint leaders, and then send letters of wisdom to deal with disputes and help to foster a community of love and prayer together.

We all know where there is lasting fruitfulness in ministry, generally there is a good team functioning behind the scenes to support growth, keep relationships in unity and keep the task, the team and the individuals all flowing nicely together.

The world teams. Let me throw in an observation as I watch how leaders and leadership teams function around the world. We grow up in a family, a nation and a culture where there is a history of how leaders lead. We are socialised into an understanding of what leadership is, according to our culture. We interpret leadership by watching the leaders around us. So we often take on board the national government style of leadership, which can also be passed on to the church. The challenge is for us all to identify the true biblical approach to leadership and structure and not assume that our culture knows best!

Your nation’s model of team. Look at the nation you are living in and observe how churches and organisations structure themselves. Is it similar to the model of the government? For instance, the British parliament took the model of leading elder or a ‘prime minister’ which means, ‘the first among equals’ of all the members of parliament. The prime minister is the leader of the core team of Members of Parliament which is called the cabinet. This cabinet has the major roles in the nation which joins with members of parliament from every constituent in the country to form the government.

There are huge cultural issues for us to be aware of and we all obviously have blind spots. This is why it is so important for us to uphold the value of being international in our teams. This way we can hopefully come against the cultural biases or keep one another accountable at least by speaking into the issues. The big challenge for us is to study and discover what a biblical culture and biblical team would look like and then imitate it. Who wouldn’t want to function like the trinity?

Somehow in our human nature there is a desire to take charge and be on top, and make the decisions with little process, consultation or consensus for the real important stuff.

Can I make a few suggestions?

  1. Ted Engstrom shares that, “Often when people talk about team leadership it’s in reaction to a directive leader. So we say, “We have a team leadership”, often meaning that no one has any overall authority. Every team needs a chairperson, greater of equals, leading elder, principal leader, facilitator, or whatever you want to call them. This person helps to guide, bring together, clarify process and bring to conclusion but he or she doesn’t hold unilateral decision-making power. (Remember – the GLF recently encouraged us not to use the term ‘director’)
  2. I prefer to use the term ‘Shared Leadership’, rather than ‘Team leadership.’ Shared leadership gives more of an understanding of sharing the roles of a leader out between a number of other leaders. For instance in YWAM International we had a Team3 leading the mission for a season rather than one director. I think we are all aware that a leadership role can involve a lot of gifts that one person just can’t possess alone. So instead of having one person take the whole role of the leader, it is shared by a number of leaders with complementary gifts who are able to reduce the stress level and possible burnout of the one leader style.
  3. Having replaced the one leader with 2, 3 or more leaders, don’t stop there. This shared leadership can be an executive of a wider group of senior or representational leaders. A base leadership team that replaces their one leader with say 3, shouldn’t cut out the rest of the team and make the leadership a team 3! Broaden and expand it, don’t cut it down.
  4. We have new eldership type teams growing. My definition of an elder team would be; leaders who have come off the top of the chart or been in line leadership but now stepped into more of an influence role in leadership. These leaders are either full time in YWAM or who still consider themselves YWAM with a YWAM heart and have maintained good relationships with YWAM over the years. I would encourage these elder teams to have a different identity from line leadership teams. They can overlap, be involved with, have input into but maintain a separateness. This allows younger leaders to emerge with more room being made available at the table. The new young leadership teams can then involve eldership teams to bring wisdom, godly counsel, mentoring and prophetic prayer into the mix.
  5. Establishing shared leadership core teams, or executives of leadership teams also enables the leader to rotate back from the point position and encourage a younger leader to step forward. For instance, this is what I am proposing in Western Europe. I have been the regional leader for the past 12 years with a core team of 4 and a regional team of 20. Now a younger member of the core team with an apostolic gift is moving into the primary leadership role. I am stepping back but still supporting and continuing my leadership development role of working with national teams. This enables the new leader to focus on apostolic vision, which is what he is good at, without distractions.

Team or shared leadership has the potential of changing the shape of the future. If we are able to live up to Philippians 2:2-5, we will be able to grow dynamic, world changing teams.

 “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

Until next month

Stephe

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