by Allan Mitchell
Have you ever been a part of a team? If you have, you would appreciate the importance of team synergy in relation to team success. Recently, at a ministry training seminar, the speaker emphasized the necessity and importance of team and the collective commitment of individual team members. Her words prompted me to pay attention – I sensed God saying something all ministry volunteers needed to hear.
As I listened intently, I realized that each volunteer team is a microcosm of the larger team called the church, and to communicate the gospel effectively to a ministry audience and help fulfill the Great Commission, a ministry team must reflect a cohesive committed group that authentically reflects the character and love of Jesus.
In John chapter 13, Jesus models authentic love in selfless servitude: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Jesus summarizes and reiterates His message by saying, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Why was Jesus concerned about how His disciples’ treated one another? Inevitably, He knew the world and the enemy would observe and scrutinize them individually and collectively to test their authenticity, commitment, and devotion to reflecting the true character of Jesus. Similarly, in each of our respective ministry venues, the world and the enemy observes and scrutinizes team members to determine their authenticity, commitment, and devotion to reflecting the true character of Jesus.
Despite the obvious opposition, Jesus selected an “A” team of twelve disciples. Throughout His ministry years, to overcome their inherent human tendencies, He inspired them for multiplication and influence by teaching them to deny self and focus on loving others. Similarly, through our ministry outreach teams, God requires us to do the same. This concept clearly conflicts with today’s narcissistic culture that vehemently reflects a me first, you second attitude; however, Jesus knew that especially in today’s ministry environment saturated with pluralism and secularism, His followers must persevere to genuinely reflect the love of God the Father.
Amidst the business of everyday life, it is easy for us to forget that as individuals or a member of a ministry team, we are ambassadors for Jesus. As His ambassadors, we are divine dignitaries of the highest rank because we represent Jesus in His physical absence; consequently, this honour bestows compulsory responsibility and accountability. We must strive to assure that every action and every word reflect the person and character of Jesus. If we are faithful in our representation, then according to John chapter 13, those we reach out to will recognize us as genuine disciples of Jesus and they will respond accordingly, as if God Himself extended the invitation to reconcile.
In today’s ministry environment, many outreach endeavours involve volunteer groups or teams. Each volunteer, within a group or team, strives individually and collectively to achieve a common goal – reaching out and communicating God’s love to a ministry audience. Concurrently and ideally, each team member brings unique personal gifts to a team, and consequently, each gift contributes to the overall gifting and success of the team, but what happens to team synergy and ministry success if team members become distracted, discouraged, dispassionate, and eventually disengaged?
Throughout the gospel narrative, Jesus models and reiterates for us the necessity and purpose of effective and harmonious teamwork. As team volunteers on the ministry front line, we must guard our hearts from apathy and complacency. We are all susceptible to their narcissistic lure. In today’s ministry environment, complacency and apathy are an epidemic. Too many times, in my own volunteer experience, I observe a disturbing and persistent trend: half-hearted volunteers passively attend, and eventually, without warning, notice, or explanation, they withdraw from active service. In some instances, individual complacency becomes contagious and the apathetic act of an individual affects team unity and synergy by crippling the commitment and conviction of fellow volunteers. Eventually, if this dysfunction continues, and the enemy further exploits the team’s vulnerabilities, the team loses perspective, passion, and purpose – and it becomes powerless and fruitless.
If we sincerely want to participate on God’s “A” team, there is an unavoidable and undeniable cost: each team member must accept personal responsibility for the other team members, individually and collectively, and they must embrace a vested interest in their ministry audience. Faithfully and obediently, we need to serve one another and our respective ministry audiences. Prayerfully and intentionally, we must strive to avoid mimicking the Pharisees. God challenges us to surrender our comfort zone and embrace the life He died to save: serve Him at any time, anywhere, at any cost, and to do any thing. Living the Christian life is not just talking about Jesus; Living the Christian life is acting like Jesus, because ultimately, it is not what we say that compels people to come to Christ, it is our actions – our actions must compliment our words and reflect the true character and person of Jesus. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. May the Lord give us renewed perspective, passion, and purpose. May He protect us from our own selfish tendencies, and the subtle snares of the enemy, and may He extend grace and mercy and continue to inspire us for influence that we may be worthy of the honour of being part of His “A” team.