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The Ministry of Orthography

How do you spell team?

We hear it said often, "There's no "I" in team." Yes, that's a fact, but unfortunately some clichés are said so much they lose their power. We know team means working together effectively for the common good, a joint project with shared vision and goals. But the question is; do you really care about working together for a team goal–especially in ministry? Do you really have the team on your mind? Are you really excited about what your team is about to accomplish? Are you thinking about how hard your team has worked to save souls? Or are you more excited about all the praise you'll receive at the end of day? Are you wondering when the current leader will step down so you can take over? Are you happy that the new person with the MBA in Leadership Structure, who kept trying to join the team, finally left the church?

My first experience in leadership was negative, to say the least. The team I was on operated under one person who did not relinquish power. When our family moved to a new church, I had no desire to meet the leaders because I assumed they'd be no different than the leaders in my former church. I remembered thinking, "Great, more leadership directors–I'll make sure to keep my distance." God has a purpose and a plan for many of the people in church as he uses us to reach different people. But unfortunately, instead of being used in God's kingdom, we find bickering and divisions as leaders are battling among themselves for position. Instead of being aware of hurting people in church, and putting together a solid team to meet their needs, the priority revolves around leadership status. God's kingdom–the ultimate goal–is lost in a team of self-serving men and women looking out for themselves.

The Quarterback Controversy

My husband loves football, and one year his favorite team had what's called a quarterback controversy because the starting quarterback became injured halfway through the season. While most teams begin to struggle when the starting quarterback goes down, this team continued to win with their backup and eventually went to the Super Bowl. However, prior to making it to the Super Bowl, the media was fixated on the idea that this team had not one, but two great quarterbacks.

While the media might have been fascinated with this story, there was nothing fascinating about it. In John C. Maxwell's book The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, he says, "Nothing of significance was ever achieved by an individual acting alone." Great leaders understand the importance of team-building to achieve great results. That football team went to the Super Bowl that year because the leaders, or coaching staff, didn't rely on one person. Is God's kingdom the Super Bowl in ministry? If it is, why isn't team-building a major component in ministry? Why is it we usually find one person as the leader, dictating, instead of training for the vast array of people who need to know Jesus?

Me? Insecure?

In the same book by John C. Maxwell, he says, "Individuals fail to promote teamwork because they feel threatened by other people. Insecurity rather than poor judgment most often causes leaders to surround themselves with weak people. Insecure leaders want to maintain control over everything, or they fear being replaced by someone more capable. Secure leaders give power to others."

Jesus built a team, the 12 disciples, to preach the gospel. He taught them and gave them power to use their authority over this sin-driven world. Luke 9:1-2 tells us, "One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick." How often do we take notes from the master leader–Jesus? I happen to believe there are many people in church with gifts not being used, and it's also my opinion that many are on teams being held at bay–allowed to do only so much when God probably positioned them for a specific purpose.

While there might be a "team" put together in various ministries, the team must operate together with the same goals to be effective in God's kingdom. I was in a planning meeting once and names of female speakers were given to the director for a fall event. One name was immediately scratched off the list by the director. We didn't pray about it as a group, and we weren't given a reason as to why the director wanted her name removed. For all we knew, the Lord wanted to use that woman mightily–or maybe the director had a good reason for not wanting her to teach, maybe a moral or theological issue. But she failed to inform us as to why she felt so strongly about it. In the same meeting, we suggested a well-known speaker who had a video series. We were told no because, the director shared, that particular speaker visited her other church years earlier and kept promoting her book. While she might have disagreed with the speaker using her former church to promote a book, it had nothing to do with the current body of women she was leading.

These examples represent poor teamwork. As John C. Maxwell wrote, "A team isn't supposed to be a bunch of people being used as a tool by one individual for selfish gain. Members of a team must have mutually beneficial shared goals. They must be motivated to work together, not manipulated by someone for individual glory." The bottom line in my situation was, the director needed help. She needed help with things she did not have time to do. We were not a team working together because there was no power or encouragement in our judgment. She had the only real say. If Jesus had operated in the same manner, his ministry would have ended when he was crucified.

Team Spelled Correctly

In the book of Esther, the poor Jewish girl who would become queen had to find the courage to approach the king unannounced in order to save her people: "Though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die" (Esther 4:16). It had finally occurred to Esther that her privileged life as queen was not for her benefit; rather, she was to save her own people. Being a leader is not for our benefit, it's to save souls. When Joshua took over leadership after Moses' death, the transition was easy because Joshua had been well-trained to continue serving those he was leading. We often forget that in ministry we are not to operate as a business, but as servants. The world desires individual glory, but our glory goes to God.

It's a battle to remember the ultimate goal is not us–it's Jesus. Even the disciples wanted status (Mark 10:41-45), but seeking status hinders the growth of the kingdom. I described myself in the opening paragraph when I talked about the one looking for praise, or waiting for other leaders to step down so I could move up. Only Jesus, through his Word, helped me see the big picture–him. Leaders should understand the battle and remind the team of its purpose. But if the leader does not understand the purpose to which we are called, the people in church will suffer. Large numbers of attendees does not equate success–living in victory with Jesus is success.

As a team leader you set the tone for your team environment. If the environment is negative, it might be time to start investing more time and effort into team development. Seek individuals who have a desire to be on the team. Spend quality time with your team, even if it means giving up your personal time here and there. Empower your team, give them responsibilities. Give your team the best chance at succeeding in the team goals. Boost morale. The more people you have who understand God's kingdom, the more people in your church will be saved, living a life full of promise with Jesus. Your influence will be great as your humble heart is moved toward the hurt and pain in this world. Men and women will live in victory as you discover that "team" spelled correctly equals Jesus.

Saleama A. Ruvalcaba is wife to Omar and a mother of four. Her book Breakthrough: Your Doorway to a New Destinywas recently released. She is a home educator, Bible student, vice-president of her homeschool group, and member of the board of trustees, alongside her husband, at Cathedral of Praise in Cordova, TN. She writes regularly on her blog: salruv7.com.

July21, 2014 at 8:00 AM

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