The Importance of Team
In view of the depth of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge, Paul beseeches us to be transformed (Rom. 11:33–12:2). In what ways can we be transformed in our thinking about leadership? In the verses that follow, we as believers are called to depend upon one another, not looking to individuality, but availing ourselves of one another’s specializations and gifts in a context of wholesome interdependence.
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 measure of faith God has given you. 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 who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. (Romans 12:3-5)
Certainly we should understand as Paul said that each member belongs to all the others (Rom. 12:5). Godly servant-leaders will not pridefully pursue their own exaltation, but the betterment of others.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
A team of leaders is necessary for any organization, whether in the church or in sports, the business world, education, charities, government, finance, or the military. A well-known authority on the management of human resources, Jeffery Pfeffer, has written extensively on leadership teamwork. He has observed:
Individual success in organizations is quite frequently a matter of working with and through other people, and organizational success is often a function of how successfully individuals can coordinate their activities. (Jeffery Pfeffer)
Leading by means of a team is critical to sustaining ourselves for the long haul and for reproducing leaders in the context of community. What can we observe in light of Scripture about collaborating in leader teams?
The Theology of Team
We know that from before the beginning, that there has always been love, communication and mutual submission within the Godhead. And such team leadership was seen in the beginning of the created world.
Then God said, “Let us make man in Our image, in Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
The work of creation involved the whole Godhead. God said “Let us make . . . .” Then too, in the creation of mankind as male and female, God said “let them have dominion. . . .” Therefore, we see apt examples of a healthy leader team in the Trinity and the marriage unit.
No individual is inferior, yet team leadership doesn’t eliminate the value of a principal leader or director. The team together has all the gifts and capabilities necessary to lead effectively. The director will have clear authority and each one in the team will have specific roles. Together such a team is able to fully accomplish the objectives of the particular leadership task.
Jesus Builds Team Leadership
Jesus built a model of team leadership during His earthly ministry. Then subsequently, in the church, the design of team leadership continued. Yet in the face of this biblical pattern, it is amazing how many churches, ministries and organizations have a “one-man-band” leadership style.
Jesus did not merely call a group of leaders to work independently and individually. Rather, in the three years of their training, He was helping them to maintain unity – delegating responsibility and authority so they would be an effective team to lead His church after His ascension into heaven.
He trained His team to love God and one another, to lead with humility – not pursuing position, but seeking to be servants of one another.
Team Dynamics in the Church
Accomplishing the mission of the church requires the contribution of all believers. Certainly leaders, above all, must work together. Pastors are to share in care of the flock (Eph. 4:11-13; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). On the evangelistic side, leaders must combine their efforts in the expansion of the church.
Outreach must involve the teamwork of many ministries and offices within a church (Acts 11:19-26; 13:1-2). Notice also the large number of individuals working together on the issue of Gentiles and the Law (Acts 15). We observe in the letter about the decision of the council (Acts 15:22-33) that there were many individuals and groups involved in making and disseminating the decision.
Defining the Team Leadership Model
What then do we mean by team leadership? How is a team different from a group? Stephe Mayers of YWAM Europe has described the difference between work groups and leader teams, as indicated in this illustration. The points (squares and circles) represent the leaders working together and the lines represent their interconnections.
Members of a group interact to share information, bring reports, discuss best practices and policies, provide perspective and make decisions to accomplish the task – with very little interconnection.
A team of leaders with balancing skills and complementary callings are committed to one another in a common purpose, seeking to hear from God together in order to accomplish the task.
With the working group of five, the team director relates with the leaders who work individually in order to get the job done. There are basically four lines of communication in the example above. However, in a team of five there is the potential for 10 lines of communication as co-workers are actually collaborating and interacting with one another.
Short-term tasks can often be completed with a simple working group. Yet for longer-term needs, groups should work toward becoming leader teams. A big challenge we face is to move away from individual effort (common in groups) toward more productive team interconnection.
Pause & Reflect:
As a team, discuss this article. Are we only a group of disconnected individuals wandering around in our ministries, with each one doing specialized tasks all alone?
- In what ways are we doing well?
- Where do we fall short of this biblical model of leading by team?
- List three examples from your own organization.
- Now discuss within your leader team how these can be remedied.
- Together read these Scriptures and pray, seeking the grace of God for enhanced interconnection within the team, valuing and serving one another as a leadership team (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 4:5; 3 John v. 8).
For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (2 Corinthians 4:5)
 Jeffrey Pfeffer, “Understanding Power in Organizations,” California
Management Review (1992)