One tricky thing about leadership is… well, somebody has to be the leader. At the same time, you’re still a member of the team you’re leading. You don’t get to completely separate the two. And it can be difficult to balance your responsibility to “get the job done” with the responsibilities you have to the people you’re working alongside, to help them develop as unique people with unique gifts.
But the good news is: Again, these aren’t two completely separate things. The people God’s given you to work alongside are the same people God wants to use to fulfill his purposes—to complete that bigger picture you’re responsible for. It’s not just your job. So let’s get a better understanding of how God wants to guide and lead those he’s put you with, and how all of you can serve God and each other better.
Andrew Purves, in his book The Crucifixion of Ministry, says, “Wherever Christ is and wherever we are joined to him, there truly is the intentional disciplined and faithful ministry of the church. It is not our ministries that make Christ present; it is the present, living Christ who makes our ministries possible.”
The Bible tells us that we’re all part of the body of Christ. Let’s see what the body looks like on a smaller level—with those teams, those “little bodies,” most of us deal with every day. And let’s not restrict ourselves to only ministry situations, but apply this idea to any teams God might have us in charge of.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (Romans 12:3-11, NIV).
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:18-27, NIV).
• What attitudes, good or bad, can we take toward our roles or abilities, according to these passages?
• Which of these attitudes do you struggle with most? Why?
• What would “measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Rom. 12:3) look like in your own life? How would it change the way you measure yourself and others you work with?
• Honestly: What can make it difficult for you to believe that “God has put each part just where he wants it” (1 Cor. 12:18)?
Let’s take a different look at it, via this scene from Apollo 13. As you might recall, astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert “have a problem”—several, in fact. Their scheduled landing on the moon has been scrapped; no-one’s sure they’ll make it back alive; and we’ve just learned that they’re slowly being poisoned by the heightened levels of carbon dioxide they’re breathing. Enter Houston’s ground crew (and watch here).
• When has a group or team you’ve been involved with had to deal with putting a “square peg in a round hole… rapidly”?
• How did you respond—“We gotta come through… get some coffee going,” “We can’t do it,” or some other way?
• On the other hand, when have you seen of “plenty of talent in the room” but no teamwork? What happened then? What could have happened if everyone had worked together?
• How do our attitudes affect how well we perform, both together and as individuals?
So let’s bring this a little closer now:
• Who has a “special gift” that corresponds with your special “fault”—that is, who’s strong in an area you’re weaker in? Do you normally seek that person’s help or run the other way? Why?
• Think again about the teams you’re already on. Who on those teams have gifts that complement one another—even if they don’t realize it? How could you help them appreciate each other more?
• Who brings out the best in you (or has done so in the past)? What is it about that person that inspires, challenges, provokes you into giving your best?
• How might God use you to bring out the best in someone else you work with—even (or especially) if that person is built differently from you?
Thank God for the people he’s put each of you with—in your ministries, your workplaces, your families—and ask Him to show you how to bring out the best in every one of those people, even if you can’t understand what makes them tick. Ask for the Spirit’s help and insight to know the right things to say and do for each person God’s put you with, so you work together to accomplish God’s purposes.