Have you ever found yourself in a circle of honor? I did for just a few minutes many years ago. They were life-transforming minutes and I will never be the same.
Barely 17 years old and newly converted to Christ, I was in the foyer of my downtown home church wearing a robe and making my way toward the baptistery when it happened. My 68-year-old pastor, standing in line next to my unsuspecting parents and me, enthusiastically asked a visiting guest speaker, "Have you met this young man? Well, let me introduce you to him. This is Robert Crosby." Is he talking about me? I wondered. "God is doing great things in this young man's life and we are excited about his future!"
Although my pastor had ministerial duties to perform that night such as baptizing a bunch of new believes, hosting a guest evangelist, and leading the congregation, and no more than a few moments to spare, the words he chose filled something within me. At once I felt affirmed, appreciated, and significant. I felt honored.
One of the worst mistakes a team leader can make is to allow his or her team to feel undervalued. A key part of a team leader's role is to remind the team of how valuable and important they are to one another, to the church, to the leadership, and, most of all, to God himself and to his high purposes on earth.
A lack of honor from the team leader or facilitator demotivates and discourages the soul of a team. There are perhaps few things more frustrating than being on a team where the leader does not affirm and appreciate the work and the varied contributions of the team and the team members.
In The Carrot Principle, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton write that 69 percent of North American workers reported that they were not recognized at all in their jobs last year. And, if that is not alarming enough, 79 percent of the top performers who change jobs reported that one of the main reasons was a lack of recognition for the work they had done. Perhaps most amazing in the research was the discovery that organizations that effectively recognize and praise their employees are three times as profitable as those who do not.
Not only are we living today in a culture that is losing its way in affirming and honoring people, it has at the same time become more adept at sarcasm and criticism. In such a world, circles of honor stand out and "shine as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15 ESV).
The Trinity may be the single most important model for all human relationships and teams—a model of mutual respect. The Trinity is, in fact, the original circle of honor—the Divine Team. A closer look at how the three forms of the Trinity interact with one another affirms this truth. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit constantly reflect honor upon one another. Great teams strive to do the same.
The Trinity is not some stilted and static group of celestial beings. On the contrary, the Trinity is a vibrant team of Persons, fully engaged with one another and with creation. What will it take to get our ministry groups, committees, and churches to function in a similar manner? What will it take to turn the group into a true team?
You might say we are never more like God than when we are honoring others. The Bible commands us to do so: "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God" (1 Pet. 2:17 ESV). When we honor the people around us, when we work this way on teams and small groups, we are doing something God has always done and is always doing. We are reflecting the Trinity itself.
Jesus drew circles of honor and called people into them. He built teams and communities in ways that people found absolutely compelling and irresistible. During his earthly ministry he constantly crowned people with honor, particularly and uniquely those who had been dishonored and disenfranchised by the world around them. Think of all the "crowns" he placed on unsuspecting heads, including the woman at the well, the 10 lepers, a bunch of fishermen, tax collectors, a woman caught in the act of adultery, little children, and even a widow who barely had two pennies to rub together.
When Jesus left heaven and came to earth, he stepped beyond the Trinity's circle of honor in which he dwelt and he drew a new one. The first circle of honor he formed included all those who followed Him, especially his twelve disciples. He drew them into a tight team, this fellowship of honor and community, only to send them out to draw other circles of their own, communities of faith, vibrant teams, as well. He asks that the circle of disciples be brought into a relational unity that reflects the same experience he had in the Divine Circle, the Trinity.
When you draw a circle of honor around someone, something powerful happens. In a culture quick to dishonor, you refresh a soul by seeing him or her the way God does—as someone made to reflect his image. When we honor someone, you create a sneak preview of heaven and reflect something ultimately found in the nature of God himself.
Adapted from The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration (Abingdon, 2012).
Copyright © 2012 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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